Tag Archives: Doncaster

Eye-Catchers #1 2022

A list of horses that caught my eye during the last seven days of racing. These individuals look ready to win a race sooner rather than later.

Surrey Territories
30/03/22 – 6.30 Kempton:

The pace slowed dramatically down soon after the start with the field bunching up and a bit of carnage behind the leading pack. Surrey Territories was at a major disadvantage in a position too far back. The winner and runner-up came from close- or up with the pace throughout the race.

Nothing got really involved from behind, the only one finishing strongly was Surrey Territories, thundering down on the outside of the field to claim a courageous 3rd place in the end.

If one is prepared to draw a line through an uncharacteristically poor penultimate run, then Surrey Territories has produced four strong performances this year. His 4th place finish at Wolverhampton in January over 7 furlongs may well be the strongest, with him finishing in impressive style and producing some fast sectionals. That piece of form looks rock solid having been franked subsequently.

A negative aspect to keep in mind is Surrey Territories’s habit to break slowly. But his recent performances suggest to me a win is near. He’s clearly capable of winning off his current mark and has no problems to stay a mile. He’s only raced three times over this trip, so there is potentially some upside.

I would love to see a strong apprentice booked over the 1 mile trip. This would make Surrey Territories a standout chance wherever he goes next.

Artician
30/03/2022 – 7.30 Kempton:


He was unusually fast out of the gates, although soon settled off the pace in a solid run race. He travelled notably well into the home straight but was looking for racing room from 2 furlongs out behind a wall of horses, having to delay his challenge, together with the equally well travelling eventual winner, a 100 rated Listed winner.

Entering the final furlong the eventual winner got an opening to move straight through, whereas Artician had to switch, losing his momentum and having to regain his full effort.

This was a strong performance given the circumstances and opposition. Artician has produced a number of rock solid runs since switching yards and moving over to the UK. After an easy victory over 7 furlongs at Wolverhampton on debut for trainer Simon Dow – albeit against inferior rivals – he was not good enough in a subsequent hot class 2 Handicap over the same CD. When dropped in class four weeks ago he finished a fine 3rd place at Kempton, though, which looks like a good piece of form.

Artician was a highly promising juvenile with placed efforts in the Marble Hill Stakes and Railway Stakes in Ireland. He didn’t quite fulfill that promise, however, now in Handicap company with a significantly lowered mark he seems ready to strike.

I am not fully sold on him over a mile, and envision ideal conditions to be a 7 furlongs handicap below class 2. He seems relatively ground independent on turf and clearly enjoys the All-Weather too.

Active Duty
29/03/22 – 4.35 Navan:

This son of the brilliant Almanzor saw plenty of support in the betting market, although, he was always likely to play second fiddle behind 109 rated and Group 1 placed odds-on favourite Stone Age.

The favourite won from the front giving the form a really solid look, while Active Duty settled well in rear for the majority of the race. Still trailing at the end of the field when turning for home, he soon started to make a big move on the outside once asked for serious effort. Despite showing signs of inexperience, he finished the race in impressive style under a hands and heels ride.

Active Duty was an expensive £260k yearling and at this early stage of his career promises to live up to this lofty price tag. He’s likely to be heavily odds-on wherever he goes next, but beyond that can be an exciting prospect for the season ahead. As an April foal it’s not unlikely to assume that he will improve significantly with time and experience this year.

I also would mention to keep an eye out for the 4th horse Fumata. He looked green and didn’t quite get a clear run in the home straight, but eventually stayed on well enough to suggest there is ability.

He’s related to winners and looks bound to improve once stepping up to 1m 4f – a distance he’s bred for.

Conversant
26/03/22 – 5.21 Curragh:

The seven-year old gelding was quickest out of the gate, using his 5 furlong speed. He joined an isolated small group of six horses on the stands’ side rail, travelling strongly on the bridle to the two furlong marker.

Perhaps he over raced in the early stages – his group was a couple of lengths ahead for the first half of the race as well. He didn’t find much once off the bridle approaching the uphill finish at the Curragh but still managed to finish 8th amongst the second group of finishers behind the first three home.

This was Conversant’s first run since last October after a productive 2021 season. He’s a pound lower rated than his last winning mark from last year when he managed to run twice to a 65 topspeed rating as well.

He can win off his current rating, perhaps a stiff 5 furlong finish like Navan, where he won twice already, with plenty of cut in the ground, will be an ideal scenario. He’s down to a fine mark, but any additional concession from the handicapper will be a huge bonus.

Cold Stare & Mokaatil
27/03/22 – 4.20 Doncaster:

This was an interesting race where a number of horses caught my eye, although these two are the ones to take out for me.

Cold Stare is the obvious eye-catcher as he was travelling sweetly throughout the race. However, trapped behind a wall of horses a gap wouldn’t open in time to get out. He finished easily on the bridle in 6th place in the end.

The 7-year old gelding ran much better on this seasonal reappearance than a 25/1 price tag suggested. Cold Stare has clearly retained all the ability he showed last season when he won twice and also finished 2nd on two occasions. He did so while achieving topspeed ratings of 88 and 91 and caught the eye multiple times.

It is fair to say he’s handicapped close enough to his best. But if he can drop a couple of pounds below a 90 mark again, ideally also moving down in class, he’ll be a big shout in a 6- or 7 furlongs handicap with cut in the ground. A good apprentice on board can only enhance his chances. It’s worth waiting for the right conditions to appear. The wait will be worth it. He’s one to keep any eye on over the next weeks in my book.

Mokaatil isn’t a desperately obvious one at first glance. But this was his first start since October and there was zero expectations for him to run well, judged by odds of 50/1. Even more so over a trip that is not quite his best.

He raced in midfield early on but drifted right to the back of field with three furlongs to go. Instead of flattening out and finishing down the field Mokaatil kept going right to the end for a solid 7th place finish.

In truth, Mokaatil never looked dangerous; yet I quite liked the fight and spirit he showed on a day that was never supposed to be his day anyway. This looked like an excellent pipe opener. This run confirms he’s clearly in good nick after a strong 2021 campaign where he won three times and ran to TS 85 and 80.

He’s already 2lb below his last winning mark but with some additional help from the handicapper, perhaps a return to a mark of 82 and dropped to the minimum trip, he’ll be a big chance, particularly on decent ground. Keep an eye on Mokaatil when these circumstances come together this season.

Desert Land
31/03/22 – 3.50 Lingfield:

First start since a course and distance success in December. He pulled like a train the first part of the race unable to settle in rear of the field. Most likely he ran his race there and then. Even though, jockey Pat Cosgrave never made any attempt to call for an effort while the race developed in front of him from three furlongs out and as a consequence Desert Land was left in no-man’s-land entering the home straight.

If one wants to see it in a positive light then Desert Land was rather tenderly handled in the closing stages and not needlessly knocked about in a finish he had little to gain. One could also have the viewpoint that insufficient attempt was made to obtain the best possible result with the early antics taken as an excuse.

In my view 1 mile is too far for Desert Land in any case. Despite the fact he won over course and distance. It wasn’t the first time he pulled really hard and he got rather lucky in the race he won as a slow early pace resulted in sprint finish playing to his speed – in fairness: as they tend to happen regularly at Lingfield. Regardless, the trip is far from his optimum. His best performances all come over shorter 6 furlongs. Perhaps a fast paced 7 furlongs is fine too these days, too.

Desert Land won of a 66 Handicap mark at Brighton last year over 6 furlongs, and achieved Tospeed ratings of 62 on turf and 68 on the All-Weather. With that in mind he’s down to an attractive mark already. But will be even more so if he drops another couple of pounds combined with moving down in distance. In that context I felt the run here was eye-catching. Because the gelding was clearly minded for a better day to come.

Ebtsama
31/03/22 – 4.10 Lingfield:

Handicap debut for this well bred filly. A £105k yearling and full sister to Group 2 placed Dark Rose, Ebtsama seemingly overcame the widest draw and sluggish start to the race. She travelled much the strongest entering the home straight, looking the likeliest winner. She was clear run denied until it was too late, though. Finally switched to the outside entering the final furlong she ran well to the line but the birds was flown at that point.

She shaped well on her seasonal reappearance over 7 furlongs at Southwell in February where she finished runner-up behind a good winner. I like to see her going up in trip again. Either 7f or a mile – both shouldn’t be a problem on pedigree.

Even though it’s unlikely she’ll hit the heights of her sister, a handicap mark of 75 probably underestimates her ability – that calculation is a simple one: given with a clear run Ebstama would have finished much closer in the Lingfield race, if not even won the race. With improvement likely to come with experience and moving up in the trip she should have a number of pounds in hand, at the very least.

Encouragement can also be taken from last year. As a juvenile Ebtsama showed some smart form in two starts: on debut only 4 lengths down behind the subsequent Lowther Stakes winner and runner-up behind a subsequent Group 3 winner.

Thursday Selections: July, 25th 2019

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8.25 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

Wide open contest but the one who’s quite intriguing is Oberyn Martel, particularly with De Sousa booked for the ride. If the 3-year-old could recapture any of his juvenile form, or for that matter, what he did on his seasonal reappearance at Wolverhampton back in February, he’d have a massive chance.

This lad obviously went the wrong way and even of revised marks didn’t look like going close whatsoever over the last while. Nonetheless he remains of interest for me, now down to a highly dangerous mark.

He has a career best topspeed rating of 83 to his name, which tops anything in this field, and he has matched a 93 RPR on both turf and the All-Weather, which suggests he was not too long ago quite a decent horse – and legitimately rated way higher than right now.

Conditions should suit today. Top jockey in the saddle. Oberyn Martel is surely bound for a big ride if he still has the appetite for racing. On the other hand he could absolutely bomb out. It’s worth the risk at given prices.

Selection:
10pts win – Oberyn Martel @ 10/1 MB

Friday Selections: July, 5th 2019

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2.00 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Society Queen is a risky proposition given she tends to mess up at the beginning of a race, but this is not a particularly competitive race in nature, certainly an easier one than she encountered this year so far, the good ground is a big bonus and she has has dropped to a sexy mark.

The 3-year-old did well as a juvenile winning twice, having ran to a topspeed rating of 80 already, and showed promise earlier this season as well, despite her starting problems.

Now down to a class 4 race, back down to the minimum trip as well, in hands of Tony Hamilton who already won on her, I feel she’s overpriced in this contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Society Queen @ 6/1 MB

……….

6.40 Beverley: Fillies’ Novice Stakes, 5f

Odds-on favourite Mighty Spirit has experience and ran well at Royal Ascot, but I believe is vulnerable to improvers, as a topspeed rating of 84 is decent, but nothing more than that.

Much more of interest at prices are Living In The Past and Aryaaf, who both made their debut in the same Ripon maiden last month and both bottled the start and showed plenty of inexperience. Both finished well and offer plenty of upside.

I’ll go with the daughter of Kodiac, Aryaaf, though, as she will have learned plenty from a tough first day in school, racing on the outside far away from the rail, with plenty of daylight, unsure what do, after missing the break, pulling hard, wandering around a bit….

She should improve plenty from that, also for the much better ground and as a daughter of Kodiac should relish Beverley – her daddy has a superb record here with his two-year-old offspring.

Selection:
10pts win – Aryaaf @ 6/1 MB

Preview: Irish Derby 2019

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Hello there, it’s Irish Derby Day! Let me tell you: this is an exciting day! Why? Well, the excitement really comes from all angles. Sure, we have the classy racing and the race itself – the Derby, off at 5.20pm – which shapes like a red hot renewal. But probably even more so, I feel, it’s a day when the new Curragh has the chance to delight.

Properly tested for the first time, it’ll be quite exciting to see how this unfolds: tested in a sense of how do facilities hold up when a large crowd is in attendance. Tested in a sense whether a large crowd actually materialise in first place. Attendance figures for Thursday and Friday were low. That was to be expected. Derby Saturday, on the other hand, has always seen a healthy crowd over the years.

Now that the new Curragh is firmly established, the weather – hopefully – balmy and dry in the afternoon, there really is no excuse for not attracting a solid double figure crowd today.

Curragh officials haven’t been particularly outgoing with their own expectations: 6-10.000 is what they are hoping for, officially. I’m sure behind close doors they’d be disappointed if there’ll be not in access of 10.000 in attendance today.

Tickets were €23 if you bought online in advance – that’s a cracking offer, to be fair. I’ve been critical of the Curragh and its pricing policy in the past. Likely will be in the future again. But this is a sensational offer. 23 bucks for what’s going to be an outstanding day of racing action at a modern, top-class venue – unbeatable!

The racing itself, as said there earlier, I feel strong about as well: the Derby aside, which I’ll preview in detail below, the supporting races hold up. Competitive handicaps that certainly offer value, plus some strong stakes races, particularly the intriguing renewal of the Railway Stakes – truth told I’m as keen driving down the N7 to the Curragh as haven’t been for a long time!

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5.20 Curragh: Irish Derby, 1m 4f

An exciting re-match looms large at the Curragh this afternoon as the 2019 Epsom Derby winner, runner-up and close 4th meet again. In those circumstances it doesn’t really matter that five of the eight starters belong to the same yard. This is all about Anthony Van Dyck vs. Madhmoon vs. Broome!

Can Anthony Van Dyck do the Derby double? I’ve never been the biggest fan of his: I opposed him in the Lingfield Derby Trial and even more so for the Epsom Classic. How dare I doubt a Galileo?!

Truth told, Anthony Van Dyck is rock solid – I’ve to concede. He already was a rock solid contender for the Derby. He’s even more so today. Because: he’s done it again and again, particularly taking all the relevant metrics into account: he’s ran three times to topspeed ratings of 100+ and he matched a 110+ RPR on four occasions also. He clearly is rather decent.

Hence the main characteristics of Anthony Van Dyck are “solid” and “consistent”. He usually runs as well, if not better, than expected – leaving a disappointing debut and Breeder’s Cup effort aside. You can also see why it’s difficult for people – like myself – to warm to him and (maybe) give him the full credit he probably deserves: this colt is as unsexy a Derby winner as I can remember for quite some time!

Now, perception aside, as alluded earlier, on ratings (and reputation, given he is the reigning Epsom Derby champ), Anthony Van Dyck is a firm favourite today. Undoubtedly. On the other hand: A 5/4 chance – really? I don’t think so. Sorry. I’ve got to oppose this lad once more.

Reasons are rather obvious: yes, on ratings he tops the field. But he’s not miles ahead of Madhmoon and Broome. He’s consistent, running to the same sort of form over and over again – if any of his main rivals can find any bit of improvement, he’s in trouble because as solid as AVD is, it appears unlikely he’s one with any additional upside.

And the Epsom race itself: Anthony Van Dyck looked a beaten horse two furlong out. He seemed to take full advantage of an opening with less than two furlongs to go, his jockey making a superb decision in the moment of the heat, maneuvering AVD out, sizing the opportunity for a clear passage.

AVD responded strongly and probably profited from the fact that he avoided the ding-dong battle that happened to his right side. The others didn’t quite see or notice him I suspect- they were locked up in their own little battle – while Anthony Van Dyck was too far able to finish his own race with the guidance of the rail.

Well, that’s my interpretation, at least. Anthony Van Dyck is a really good horse, no doubt. He’s certainly no world beater either. Even though he comes out on top in the ratings, his career highest top speed rating is nothing to shout about. If you’d run the Epsom Derby ten times from the moment the field turns for home you’ll probably get a different outcome any time – Anthony Van Dyck wouldn’t be as ‘lucky’ again, I suspect.

Okay, so we have that out of the way, which begs the question: who wins the 2019 Irish Derby? Obviously it would be an emotional victory if Madhmoon could land the big price for his veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast.

Madhmoon travelled much the best over three furlongs out in the Epsom race – travelling surprisingly well, because I have to admit –  I was wrong in doubting this lad to be good enough and/or stay the Derby distance. He duly did!

You can argue Madhmoon was a little bit unlucky, as he travelled so well, but had a rough passage from the three furlong marker on, having to fight for his position, squeezing through gaps, possibly lit up as a consequence – still he fought gamely to the line, and in our hypothetical game of running the race ten times again from the moment the field turns for home, you’d have to give Madhmoon a strong chance to come out on top a number of times.

Two issues I have with Madhmoon, though: despite the fact he is rather lightly, which may see him to progress further, he also had a number of opportunities to run fast already. He didn’t take these chances to run fast. A career highest topspeed rating of 99 – achieved in the Derby – is poor for a supposedly class act.

Further to this: my suspicion is Madhmoon will always show his best on a fast surface. With the rain we’ve got here in county Kildare over the last 15 hours or so, the ground may ride a bit too tacky for him.

While I fo see his potential for additional improvement, I also feel this is already reflected in his odds: 5/2. I can not make a case where I see him a better chance than that, at all.

Before moving to my preferred selection, a quick glance further down the market, to the outsiders in this field: realistically none of the long-shots should have a say here. You could make a case – with a bit of imagination certainly – for Norway to bounce back. At 50’s he’d be a decent each-way shout. But he’s 33’s in the betting. Which is only fair.

Truth told: none of the long-shots is good enough. Of course, it can happen from time to time that a pace setter proves difficult to peg back, particularly at the Curragh. Still, I struggle to make out a viable each-way alternative at given prices.

So, that leaves Broome as the one for me. The negative first: what I said about Madhmoon can be copied and placed here to count against Broome as well: for a supposedly class horse he’s yet to run particularly fast. A TS rating of 97 and an RPR of 117 – he needs to improve today.

Can he? I think if one of this trio is able to break out and move significantly forward it’s him. The reason for this is a simple one: he looked a fair prospect as a juvenile, but was always sure to show his best as a 3-year-old stepping up in trip. And so he did: Broome won the Ballysax and Derby Trial at Leopardstown in fine style, without breaking sweat.

On Derby day Broome was one of the more unlucky sorts. Not massively hampered or anything of that sort, but he was always travelling wider than ideal, covering extra distance and turning quite wide for home as well.

Taking that into account as well as the visual impression of him staying on strongly in the final furlong plus the fact he was beaten by a close margin and hitting the line with full momentum, potentially winning if the race is a few yards longer, is enough for me to believe Broome is the one with the most upside today.

There is a good chance he’s a dour stayer who prefers the Leger trip. On the other hand, with the bit of rain that’s falling, hopefully a strong pace and a stiff uphill finish at the Curragh, I strongly feel the conditions are right for him to shine.

Selection:
10pts win – Broome @ 10/3 PP

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The rest of the Curragh card: I don’t fancy anything as much as that I would back them at my usual stake. I placed some accumulators win and each/way (the bigger priced ones) to keep me entertained for the other races. That includes’s: 

1.45: Twenty Minutes; 2.20 Beckford; 2.55: Old Glory; 3.30: Global Giant; 4.05: King’s Field; 4.40: Fort Myers; 6.00: Mutadaffeq  

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2.35 Chester: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

This is a highly competitive race, but I feel the horse at the bottom of the market is grossly underappreciated, as Wild Eric now drops to the minimum trip for the first time, which I believe will suit this pacey front-runner down to the grounds.

The 3-year-old is already course winner, albeit over a furlong further; he’s been disappointing in three starts this year, but now drops below the 80 rating barrier that sees him racing off a feather weight in this race today.

Wild Eric ran to topspeed 84 last season. If the trip revitalizes him and he can come close to that he’ll be hard to beat today from a top draw, I firmly believe.

Selection:
10pts win – Wild Eric @ 15/2 MB

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7.30 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

He’s yet to show any sort of that form that saw him become a mid-90 rated sprinter as a three-year-old, but now dropping to to a handy mark as well as dropping to a class 4 Handicap, Roundhay Park appears ripe for a big run today.

Even though he hasn’t been in the money in four starts this year, I’d argue his 6th place finish at York in an ultra-competitive race back in May shows there remains plenty of ability and appetite for the game.

The good ground will suit at Doncaster today and this is a much easier race than anything he’s encountered this season so far. A mark of 85 with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle will see him go close.

Selection:
10pts win – Roundhay Park @ 13/2 MB

Saturday Selections II: April, 27th 2019

Online Alexander & Jamie Spencer

I’ve got a bit more work done after the second coffee was downed, so here’s a little add-on to my initial selections for this wonderful Saturday’s racing:

4.20 Haydock: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Sands Chorus looks like he’s finding back some form as he’s dropping down the weights and now also drops further in class. He was 3rd at Newbury recently, making all from the front – not many got into it, but the winner came from off the pace, suggesting Sands Chorus went off a little bit too hard.

This is an easier contest. He’s lost his way completely last year and changed yards. But off 78 now, with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle – it’s Theodore Ladd’s only ride on the card as well, I feel Sands Chorus looks capable of running to a higher rating still.

Selection:
10pts win – Sands Chorus @ 17/2 MB

…….

5.25 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 1 mile

A wide open contest where you can make a case for a number of these potentially being well in if they return to form. I do quite like one who doesn’t have to return to form but who could still be well in: Ascot Week.

His comeback run at Pontefract earlier this month was quite eye-catching as he had a wide draw to overcome, didn’t get the clearest of passages in the closing stages but travelled supremely well until 2f out and finished the race strongly also.

Although his overall record is patchy, and outright poor outside class 6, since Ascot Week has been fitted with headgear he’s been a different horse. He won three races in the second half of 2019 as a consequence.

The mile trip will be fine today, only the rain arriving is a bit of a question mark. Form and handicap mark wise I feel he belongs right here and could have a bit more to offer as he also has surpassed his current handicap mark of 65 twice on the TS ratings.

Selection:
10pts win – Ascot Week @ 16/1 MB

…….

7.45 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 7 furlongs

Dance Teacher returns to the track for the first time in 2019 and looks primed for a big run with SDS on board. De Sousa is 2/2 with the mare, and also rode her the last time she got her head in front, at Epsom last August.

She won off 81 – the same mark as today. She’s ra to a TS rating of 84 that day, and also won off 80 on the All-Weather. So, on that evidence, Dance Teacher looks ripe for another success.

Ground conditions will be fine, she showed to go well fresh in the past and dropping back into class 4 where she holds a 10-4-2 record is another bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Dance Teacher @ 11/2 PP

 

Saturday Selections: April, 27th 2019

Leicester Racecourse

2.05 Haydock: Class 2 Handicap, 7 furlongs

I’m very much attracted to the Great Prospector here. A pipe opener in the Lincoln was a better run than the bare form suggests, but certainly dropping down to 7f will suit, and so does the drop in mark.

Down to a 94 rating now, this looks sexy on the basis of his juvenile performances, but even more so on the strong piece of form that is his 3rd place finish in the Guisborough Stakes last October. Also he’s been running to a TS rating of 94 in the past, as well as multiple 100+ RPR’s – he’s a classy individual.

It’s true that the Great Prospector hasn’t quite followed on from a strong 2-year-old campaign, though he’s been racing in hot competition mostly last year, and judged by his performances in autumn, he surely has still the appetite for racing and could be really dangerous today.

He will not mind the rain today and looks one of the more likely, if not even one of the very few in this contest potentially well handicapped.

Selection:
10pts win – Great Prospector @ 9.5/1 MB

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2.40 Haydock: Class 5 handicap, 1 mile

Frankadore is related to a couple of winners that all did well over this trip and usally won as three-year-olds of similar handicap marks. Given he’s a son of Frankel, who has quite an outstanding record with offspring at Haydock, also over a mile, there is good evidence this lad can be a big runner on handicap debut.

As a late April foal you would expect him to come on for the winter break. He started his juvenile campaign late, but showed plenty of promise on debut in a hot contest that worked out well.

In two subsequent starts Frankadore disappointed, but now older, also gelded, I do expect improvement. An opening mark of 73 looks fair, and could potentially underestimate him, if he can find back to the sort of form he produced on debut.

Selection:
10pts win – Frankadore @ 14/1 MB

………

7.15 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Rowland Ward is quite good looking colt, well bred out of an Oaks Trial winner, with the appearance of an individual with scope. He was a disappointing beaten odds-on favourite on his seasonal return at Pontefrace in a 3-runner-race.

But I give the colt the benefit of the doubt: he probably needed the run, didn’t look totally happy at bumpy Pontefract, was beaten by a race fit winner and he also dwelt. Starting issues seem to become a habit and is a concern.

Nonetheless, I feel his opening mark on handicap debut today looks potentially underestimating him, given he also tries the 12f only for the second time, which on pedigree should suit perfectly, and he also drops in class here.

Selection:
10pts win – Rowland Ward @ 9/2 MB