Category Archives: Racing Talk

A Weekend To Remember

What a roller-coaster week. Culminating in an emotional and dramatic weekend that included a 16/1 winning selection for the 1000 Guineas as well as a winner in the Kentucky Derby that was no winner half an hour later and a superstar on the other side of the globe far too few people have heard of yet!

Throw in a couple of unlucky 2nd places and a 2000 Guineas result that left me wonder “what if” and you’ve certainly got a few days to remember!

2000 Guineas: What Draw Bias?!

Horses loading for the first Classic of the 2019 flat season, a last few words from Johnny Murtagh on ITV: he’s now leaning toward Magna Grecia based on his observation of the existence of a draw bias in favour of the stands-side.

A few minutes later Twitter was running hot as Magna Grecia passed the line in front of everyone else, indeed. The colt trained by Aiden O’Brien – of course – won the battle of his small group on the stand-side, far away from the rest of the field, comfortably. And because his side was always ahead throughout the race he won the 2000 Guineas rather comfortably in the end.

My selection Skardu ran a massive race and finished 3rd, winning the race in his much larger group. I guess, ideally we wouldn’t have this discussion now and instead we’d have seen a “fair” race. But this is racing. Happened in the past. Will happen again.

Whether there was a draw bias I am not so sure. Most likely there was a pace bias, though. And this had the most profound impact on the outcome of the race. This is certainly something that occurs any given day. If you’re drawn close to the pace and you follow it you always have a better chance of winning than not.

Smarter people will be able to explain all the exact reasons behind it in greater detail than I can or want right now. But that is a racing fact.

On balance I believe – at least over 1 mile – there is little between Magna Grecia and Skardu, and possibly Madhmoon. Will we see a re-match at the Curragh in a few weeks time? Magna Grecia is bound for the first Irish Classic. Wouldn’t it be nice to see these three meet there again? I’d love to see that!

Derby Delight Turns Sour

I live for these big races. The anticipation building over the whole day leading up to the moment when the gates crash open – pure excitement!

Normally I’m neither too high nor too low watching bred and butter racing, regardless of betting, the winning or the losing. Big races get my blood flowing, though.

Getting up at 3am in the morning for the Melbourne Cup? No bother. I can’t sleep anyway because of all the butterflies in my stomach!

The Kentucky Derby is one of my favourite races of the entire year. The occasion, build-up and atmosphere transported thanks to the outstanding NBC coverage is simply stunning.

No different this Saturday night. I was cheering home my selection Maximum Security with passion – surely the neighbours enjoyed it too – pumping the first in the air as the colt crossed the line ahead of everyone else. And who wouldn’t? A 9/1 winner in the Kentucky Derby is something to shout about!

Then the dreaded words: “objection lodged…. hold on to your tickets”. What follows are replay after replay dissecting ever aspect of the final three furlongs of the 145 Kentucky Derby. It was obvious Maximum Security was the best horse in the race. The runner-up Country House had no right to be upset with the result. He wasn’t impeded at all!

But it was also obvious Maximum Security impeded other horses when shifting around when turning home. It could resulted in a pretty bad situation on a different day.

Taking that into consideration I can understand the disqualification. And given the strict US rules it probably was the right call in the end.

On the other hand, whether it is truly a fair call to take the race away from the horse that was quite clearly the best one in the race, because of shifting around in an incredibly tight situation, racing on the limit at the end of a tough contest, doing so on a sloppy surface….

After all these are animals, not robots who run straight on rails as if they’d be pre-programmed machines.

It all happens so fast, there are 150.000 people screaming, horses and riders fighting for space, whips flying around…. it’s racing, not chess. These things happen in the sport and the question that needs to be raised in these type of situations is: did the winner got an unfair advantage and did the runner-up lost because of this situation?

The answer is unequivocal NO in this instance.

Ultimately I feel Maximum Security should have kept the race. What a fairytale it would have been. A horse thought to be so bad he started his career in a $16k claimer, going to win the Kentucky Derby…..

The Best Ever? 

South Africa as produced a lot of fantastic race horses over the years. The likes of Variety Club or Igugu come to my mind, in particular. But there is a new kid on the block and he could be the best there ever was in South Africa – some already suggest!

Well, one thing is for sure: Hawwaam is an incredibly exciting colt, with a turn of foot you rarely see produced in such stunning manner. How he races away from his rivals in the closing stages, like it’s the easiest thing in the world, is nothing short of breathtaking.

I took note for the first time – and was immensely impressed –  when Hawwaam stepped into Grade 1 company for the first time in the SA Classic earlier this year as he arguably exploded in the final furlong putting a handful of lengths between himself and the rest in a matter of strides.

He followed up on Saturday in the Grade 1 Champions Challenge when stepping up to the 10 furlongs distance and he couldn’t have been more impressive. How often do you see a horse in a top-level contest travelling hard on the bridle approaching the final furlong and then shooting clear under hands and heels? This horse is special:

On to the Durban July now? He surly will go off a warm favourite. And only luck or the lack of can stop him there I reckon.

How great would it be to see this superstar travel the world?! And what a shame that it remains so difficult for South African horses to travel. In turn it means far too few people get to know these classy horses that race on the other side of the globe.

Wayne Lordan Defies the Stats

He was 1 for 42 rides in the UK for Aiden O’Brien and his mounts went off a 25/1 average SP – Wayne Lordan couldn’t have been an unlikelier hero in the 1000 Guineas today – at least judged by the numbers.

Riding the least fancied of the Ballydoyle string once more, Hermosa was a largely ignored runner coming into the race. You could back her at 20/1+ this morning.

I missed those massive prices, but still got 16s with only a few hours to go to the race when making her my sole selection for the 1000 Guineas.

All credit to Wayne Lordan, though. What superb ride: incredibly brave, at the same time keeping it simple, bouncing the filly out of the stalls sending her straight to the lead, knowing Hermosa would likely stay all day and night long.

And she did! She was gutsy, stuck to her guns when challenged and won well in the end. A supremely well bred filly, adds another big race success to her superstar family, given she is a full-sister to Group 1 winners Hydrangea and The United States.

It brings a hectic week to an end. I had 30 bets. Way too many. I go carried away on Monday in particular but was bailed out by New Show at Windsor, thankfully. 4 winners & 120pts profit this week – the highlight obviously Hermosa.

A week of what would have been. 10 placed horses, multiple of those beaten in tight finishes on the line. A winner in the Kentucky Derby that was taken away half an hour later.

Well…. onwards and upwards. 

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A Sunday filly for Ripon

Beaten in the dying strides – life as a horse racing punter can be an agonising affair. Cloud Computing got the better of Classic Empire in the Preakness Stakes. The fresher horse, with the better, less aggressive and more economical ride, won in the end.

…..

4.10 Ripon: Class 3 Fillies’ Handicap, 6 Furlongs

Open enough looking contest and I take a chance on bottom weight Savannah Slew. Other three year old’s in the field are better fancied and this filly has questions to answer given that she already had eight career runs, is a bit temperamental and wasn’t convincing on her seasonal reappearance.

However she should strip fitter now and will enjoy the return to six furlongs, a trip she won two starts back. Ground wise it won’t be a big deal if any cut is left as her two victories came on softish ground although on pedigree better ground is what should be her optimum.

A mark off 78 is stiff enough and she will need to improve, though juvenile form gives her every chance given she already ran to an RPR of 81 and should be home in the conditions encountered here at Ripon.

Selection:
10pts win – Savannah Slew @ 10/1 Bet365

Saturday Tips

After three days full of action at Chester our attention turns to Lingfield for the Derby Trial, though whether this really is a meaningful trial for the big race June is debatable. It’s also worth to have a look across the pond as racing at the Curragh is back!

On a day like this, with so much excellent racing on offer, it’s tough to remain disciplined and focused, but I try my best and worked myself through two handful of races and came up with four more or less confident selections for the day.

2.30 Lingfield: Derby Trial, 1m 3.5f

You had to be impressed with Sir John Lavery’s maiden success at Gowran Park last October, but he’s a very short price for a yard that we know doesn’t send their big guns to Lingfield. We haven’t seen him this year yet too, so you got to have allot of trust – which I don’t have and therefore think he’s worth to take on.

John Gosden’s Tartini was a fair 4th on his return in the Epsom Derby Trial, he may well improve for the run and will probably be seen in better light here stripping fitter and hopefully enjoying a bit more in-runging luck.

However for a price I do feel is over the top the bin Suroor’s Best Solution makes most appeal. It’s not ideal that he has to give weight away, but the Kodiac colt is head and shoulders above the rest on 2yo form where he ended the year with an excellent runner-up effort in the Group 1 Criterium de St. Cloud.

His runs in Meydan may be forgiven, he just didn’t take to the dirt. So a return to turf with a bit of cut in the ground could easily see him improving. He has the right profile to be a better three year old and a fair chance to stay the trip.

Selection:
10pts win – Best Solution @ 12/1 PP

…….

3.25 Ascot: Class 2 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

Both three year old’s look intriguing in this contest, however the older Singyoursong is equally a very interesting contender, and in by book a better betting proposition. An improving filly last season, she is still on the up as was evident when she won on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month at Brighton.

That day over 10f she produced a nice turn of foot coming from the rear of the field to get up with plenty in hand. A 5lb rise in the mark could undervalue that success. The drop in trip to 1m isn’t an issue as she has is three from six over this distance.

Furthermore Singyoursong has course form – she won a valuable Handicap here last July in similar conditions.

Selection:
10pts win – Singyoursong @ 11/2 Bet365

……

3.50 Nottingham: Kilvington Stakes (Fillies’ Listed), 6f

First time blinkered Pichola Dance could improve for the combination of headgear, drop in trip and drop in class. She found opposition in the Fed Darling on her seasonal reappearance to hot and faded away in the closing stages, however with the rail to aim at from her draw she might use her pace to advantage today.

She’s twice a winner as a juvenile, including a good class 2 Handicap over 7f, and ended the season on a high with 3rd placed effort in Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury. With fitness on her side, ground to suit and potentially conditions to improve for, she can run a better race than the price suggests.

Selection:
10pts win – Pichola Dance @ 22/1 Bet365

…..

5.05 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7 furlongs

Market leader Baine has been knocking on the door a couple of times and her two latest efforts have been massively eye-catching that also stand up form wise.

She is a horse that needs a bit of luck given she usually races at the rear of the field and certainly at Cork last month she did not get a clear run, finding traffic on numerous occasions stopping her smooth progress.

She still finished a strong 3rd behind a well handicapped winner who won subsequently and a runner-up who finished a solid 5th in a Listed contest the next time.

Baine went on to run another big race, then at Leopardstown. From a wide draw she missed the kick and was dead last turning for home. She manoeuvred her way through the whole 18 runner strong field but didn’t quite get there, finishing 3rd for the third consecutive time.

This is another big field today and she will need to get the breaks when needed, however form wise she looks well handicapped. I feel the better ground does suit her allot today and in this slightly weaker contest she must go very close.

Selection:
10pts win – Baine @ 7/1 Bet365

 

 

Sunday Racing Review

Upset in the 1000 Guineas – Winter won the first ladies Classic of the new season! Or was it even an upset? Maybe not so much because she was subject of substantial market support over the last week or so and some outspoken experts voiced their keenness on the Aiden O’Brien trained filly

Fact is she ran pretty well in the Leopardstown Guineas trial and with natural improvement and enhanced fitness she had always a chance to go close in what appeared to be quite an open renewal beforehand.

Winter got a fine no-nonsense ride by Wayne Lordon – who already sat on her last season when she was still trained by David Wachmann – and once hitting top gear she put lengths between herself and the field.

Stable mate and favourite Rhododendron didn’t enjoy the clearest of runs but finished strongly to claim second eventually.

At the same time I was over at Leopardstown for the Irish Derby Trial Day. Sunny Dublin presented itself from the best side and that made the day at the races so much more pleasant.

The Group 3 Amethyst Stakes went Custom Cut’s way, who finally got his head in front again – it took him nearly two years to do that since he took the Boomerang Stakes here at Leoapardstown back in 2015.

A 1000 Guineas Trial only in the name, because the actual field was poor and I’d be surprised if any of the contestants line up up in the Classic. Jim Bolger trained Jim Feasa won the race – a 99 rated individual not goo enough to land a Gowran Maiden at the fifth time of asking only a week ago. Tells you all about the quality of this race.

Quality was delivered in the main event, the Derby Trial. Two highly regarded and talked about Ballydoyle colts were thought to battle it out – though in the end both Capri and Yucatan had to settle for minors behind stable mate Douglas Macarthur.

I loved to see those famous Jooste colours from South Africa in the winners enclosure. Got a nice colt there with Douglas Macarthur who proved it was no fluke when he ran 2nd in the Ballysax where he also beat Yunatan and Capri.

For the future it might well be Yucatan then who turns out to be best of the trio. He didn’t quite get a clear run – though I felt he had every chance nonetheless – and battled hard to the line. A step up to the Derby trip should not be an issue and he looked simply stunning in the parade ring today.

 

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3.40 Southwell: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

Captain Bob is a very infrequent winner, in fact his last “1” dates back to 2014. However a falling mark seems to have reinvigorate him, particularly on the All-Weather were he has been placed in all his three starts which all came earlier this year.

He also took relatively easily to the Southwell fibresand. In fact he produced a strong performance over 6f when only beaten by a head in the end. This piece of form looks rock solid and judged on it he appears now to be potentially well handicapped.

He followed up with a fine 3rd place at Brighton subsequently on fast ground over 6f but I feel it this more stamina focused test over the same trip at Southwell suits him slightly better, and probably even more so as we now know he acts on the surface and Captain Bob himself has learned how to race on fibresand.

He’s got a good draw and a red hot apprentice in the saddle, so this may represent the best chance in a very long time to finally get his head in front.

Selection:
10pts win – Captain Bob @ 4/1 Bet365

…..

5.10 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 5f

This is a shockingly poor contest given an 11 year old is favourite and a 20 times maiden is thought to be closes pursuer. However it is the still winless Kodimoor who seems overpriced in this race, despite his desperate record.

Reason to believe he can be very competitive is the fact that he dropped markedly in the weights and finished a decent third in an Apprentice Handicap over CD in January, trying fibresand for the first time.

That form gives him a big chance of effectively 5lb less, given his mark dropped 3lb since then and the change of jockey allowance taken into account – while it is fair to say 7lb claimer David Egan is quite competent and no worse than Ms. Malune who claimed 5lb the other day.

Selection:
10pts win – Kodimoor @ 7/2 Bet365

…….

7.50 Windsor: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Lightly raced Shergiah should have more to offer now stepping up in trip after a decent comeback run at Lingfield over a mile where a sprint finish did not suit him.

However he looked quite good on his final run in 2016 when he landed a decent maiden at Ripon in impressive style, given how well he picked up once asked for full effort.

This good looking gelding has still a bit of scope to improve and in this not overly strong race he could get his season off to a flyer.

Selection:
10pts win – Shergiah @ 10/3 Paddy Power

Sunday Tips

The flat changes gear – we saw that today. The 2000 Guineas finally kicked the new season really off and it did so in style. The race produced a blockbuster finish with the better end for the 6/4 favourite Churchill.

It was another superb ride by the master that Ryan Moore is, as he made sure Churchill was in the best position when it really matter, grabbing the rail, to keep the colt focused and in line, which was an advantage.

At least compared to some of the other well fancied rivals, like Al Wukair or Barney Roy for example. The French horse had to go wide around the whole field, found that certainly not easy but finished strongly in his own right. Barney Roy looked still a bit green.

I’d love to see a rematch of the Guineas main contenders this year, and I’m sure we get it. Will be interesting whether it’s gonna be the same outcome? I’ have my doubts.

Sunday will be another massive day. The 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, plus a handful of other Group races and good Handicaps.

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1.50 Newmarket: Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f

This is a hot contest with some really good horses lining up. Favourite Big Country is an exciting improver who looks certain to bring his All-Weather form to the turf. His last Kempton win is excellent form and the lightly raced son of High Chaparral could easily defy a 10lb rise in the mark.

However at prices I prefer top weight Frontiersman. Yes, it’s a tough task to run of 101 and 9st 10lb in a Handicap. However this lad looks pattern class. He has filled his huge frame nicely over the winter, strengthening further after a fine 3yo campaign last season that saw him win a nice Handicap over course and distance.

He clearly needed the run on his reapearance at Doncaster last month and should be primed now. Fast ground seems key, which he gets here at Newmarket. He takes plenty of beating in my mind.

Selection:
10pts win – Frontiersman @ 5/1 Paddy Power

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3.55 Leopardstown: Handicap, 7 furlongs

He’s never won on turf, nonetheless Split The Atom looks incredibly well handicapped here. It’s not like that he doesn’t act on grass, in fact he’s been placed six times, however never found the right opportunity.

It looked like he could break the duck at Navan a fortnight ago. He travelled much the best and finished like a train but was arguably an unlucky runner-up.

He’s got a chance to race off the same mark, however with a 5lb apprentice in the saddle and over his preferred 7f trip on fast ground where he has a four out of six place strike rate.

The wide draw is not a problem because he’s a hold-up horse anyway, however it is not easy to win from far back at Leopardstown, so that is an obvious question mark. Nonetheless on RPR’s an time speed figures he has a tremendous chance and I’m happy to go risk at a big price.

Selection:
10pts win – Split The Atom @ 7/1 Bet365

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4.55 Hamilton: Class 5 Handicap, 8.5 furlongs

Kevin Ryan’s Al Hawraa seems judged on a poor seasonal reappearance but it’s likely she’s going to be much sharper this time. We don’t know yet how good (or bad) daughter of Iffraaj is, though there was some indication last season that she is not totally  without talent.

She was able to finish a good runner-up on debut behind subsequent dual winner and she managed to finish in the placings another two times in maiden company. It’s fair to say she looked bad in her two handicap runs, however her opening mark was potentially on the stiff side.

She dropped down to 63 now and judged on her maiden form that could give her a chance to be competitive if she can respond well for the slight step up in trip. Ground looks fine and Kevin Ryan tends to do pretty well at Hamilton even more so if Kevin Stock is in the saddle.

Selection:
10pts win – Al Hawraa @ 14/1 Bet365

…….

The Irish 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown looks a shocking race on Sunday. What’s the chance that even one of those runs in the actual Classic? On the other hand the Derby Trial is intriguing. Capri versus Yukatan.

Yukatan is held in high regard by the ‘Brien camp. However I actually like Capri a bit better at this stage. The big grey was not suited by the slow pace on his reappearance and it’ll be interesting to if things pan out differently and if that sees him closing the gab to Yukatan.

1000 Guineas Preview

Minding’s back with a Bang!

No surprise in the first Group 1 of the new flat season: Evens favourite Cloth Of Stars delivered the goods for Godolphin, Andre Fabre and Mickael Barzelona in the Prix Ganay.

Ridden patiently, Barzelona waited for the right moment to make the decisive move. Once in the clear the Son of Sea The Stars powered home strongly. A first success at the highest level for Cloth Of Stars.

But should it have been a first taste of Group 1 success for last years French Derby runner-up Zarak? Probably. Soumillon in the saddle had to sit and suffer at a crucial stage of the race while Zarak finished like a train eventually – unlucky!

No problems for Minding at Naas. She did it as easily as it gets in the Group 2 Mooresbridge Stakes and she clearly has not lost anything over the winter.

She made all from the front and the moment Ryan Moore gave her a little squeeze she stretched swiftly clear. Granted, she was shorts odds-on an clear on the ratings, but still on her return to win so easily is impressive.

Next stop on the agenda is the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Currag. The Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot are most likely the subsequent summer target.

Stable mate Johannes Vermeer finished last but got a very light ride with the future clearly in mind. I expect him to come on quite a bit for a run and would not lose hope in him yet.

…….

2.30 Brighton: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

I look forward to see Equiano son Otomo return to the track as a three year old now dropping to six furlongs for the first time. He showed promise as a juvenile, was twice narrowly beaten here at Brighton, although over 7f, and ended the season with two more decent performances.

In all his races he showed plenty of early pace but did not quite get home, so he looks ready-made for sprinting. An opening mark of 67 seems reasonable, and any age- plus trip related improvement should see him run a big race.

It’s noteworthy that the Hide yard is in good form, with a fantastic record at this track and with Liam Keniry in the saddle. Also Equaino offspring tends to perform incredibly well at Brighton.

Selection:
10pts win – Otomo @ 6/1 Bet365

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4.20 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

Well bred Secret Soul was relatively well fancied in her three career outings so far but despite two decent performances she never came close to win. However it’s fair to assume she simply needed the experience and now going handicapping with a pipe opener already under her belt she could improve.

She is fitted with first time visor as a reaction to her most recent fourth place at Kempton where tried to make all from the front. It may keeps her focused on the job when it really matters.

Given what she has achieved an opening mark of 68 seems slightly on the stiff side. However she ran in and around that level on RPR’s the last two times and clocked fair speed ratings too, so potentially she could be well in, if the combination of experience, race fitness, suitable trip and headgear sees her putting the best foot forward.

Selection:
10pts win – Secret Soul @10/1 Bet365

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6.30 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

If anywhere near full race fitness Brimham Rocks should be able to exploit his potentially very lenient opening mark here. His three maiden runs last year have been nothing of note but they were more of educational nature, over partly wrong ground and trips too short anyway.

H’s been a very late foal who’s sure to improve as a three year old once stepping up in trip, given this well bred son of Fastnet Rock is out of an Oaks trial places mare. So the 1m 4f trip should suit hands down.

Also Brimham Rocks’ sire has a 43% strike rate with offspring at Wolverhampton over this distance. All points toward that this lad is certainly well handicap on his handicap debut.

Selection:
10pts win – Brimham Rocks @ 5/2 Skybet

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9.10 Chelmsford: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 6f

I feel Addicted To You has a pretty good chance to follow up on a recent maiden success over 12f. At Lingfield this Medicean colt made all from the front. He got a bit idle in the closing stage which meant a closer from behind got a bit too close for comfort eventually, but overall it was a convincing win.

Now of a 75 rating he could still be undervalued even more so as he steps up in trip which should suit more than it is a problem. He’s got the profile to improve with age and according to sire stats the 1m 6f trip, particular around Chelmsford, should suit.

Given Addicted To You’s two sisters both achieved RPR’s of 80+ it is fair to assume that he can still find a bit to get off the mark in handicap company now.

Selection:
10pts win – Addicted To You @ 7/2 Bet365

Blockbuster Monday

Blockbuster Monday: The Group 1 Prix Ganay at St. Cloud is the headline act, but no doubt most eyes will be glued to the action at Naas.

The County Kildare course has picked up another high quality card thanks to the Curragh redevelopment tomorrow with the highlight no doubt the Mooresbridge Stakes where we gonna see wonder mare Minding back in action!

We know how good she is and therefore even more intriguing could be the return of stable mate Johannes Vermeer. Back after a half year long lay-off – he also had only one run last season – the winner of the 2015 Criterium International is an exciting prospect for the class of the older horses.

Betting wise, though, my eyes turn to Beverley in England. Not an overly exciting card there, however I really fancy one horse over there quite a bit….

 

4.50 Beverley: Class 4 Handicap, 8.5f

There is every chance that the top two in the betting are both on marks underestimating their true class, however Carnageo is a better price and I prefer him given I liked his seasonal reappearance at Doncaster earlier this month. allot

Carnageo won three times last season, though he only got up by narrow margins the last two, still it’s fair to say he improved extremely well during his three year old campaign. His final performance at Nottingham over 8.5f given the form delivered five individual winners subsequently and the runner-up is now 8lb higher rated.

Probably stretching his stamina to the max, Carnegeo travelled well at Doncaster three weeks ago and seemingly came with a big challenge from three furlongs out, however he hit a wall inside the final furlong and was eventually eased.

The drop down to 8.5f should suit and with race fitness ensured he might still be able to pull out a bit more. Only the faster than ideal ground is a real question mark for me.

Selection:
10pts win – Carnegeo @ 9/2 William Hill