It was good to back a winner on Wednesday – Iva Feeling did it really well, as hoped, always nicely positioned from her low draw and she saw out every inch of the mile.
The rare trip over to Dundalk was a profitable one for me – finally positive news on the W front, the third winner for the month; yet, January is nothing to shout about on the P/L sheet.
Not so good was the blatant non-trier Northern Chancer. That’s disappointing to see if you back a horse. But then, that’s the nature of the game I willingly participate in. It’s bound to happen, another time in my favour.
Probably even more disappointing, a disappointment with my own decision making, was backing May Remain. I knew pre-race the pace scenario is against him; was blinded by the mantra chanting in my head “but he’s so well handicapped”.
Maybe he was, and perhaps he’s even more so next time, but the way the race was going to unfold was always going to kill off his chances. This is not hindsight bias because I knew it well enough beforehand, identified this issue and still put the money down. Wanted it too much.
It’s important to be honest with oneself. I can be and know: this was a poor bet. You can’t construct good bets. Only bad ones.
12.50: Classified Stakes, 5f
I must give Ustath another chance. He drops down to the minimum trip, which shouldn’t be an issue, given he’s a multiple course and distance winner.
His most recent run in Handicap company over 6 furlongs earlier this month was disappointing, but the damage was done in the first half of the race, and he also was hanging in the straight.
I go back to the penultimate run, though, that was seriously eyecatching. That level of form, if he could run close to it, will see him hard to beat against poor opposition today.
Ideally he would have a low draw, given those low numbers on the far side are clearly preferred over the 5f at Southwell. But there looks to be little real pace on that side in this race, which means it will probably play out in the middle of the track, so the #9 gate is fine.
10pts win – Ustath @ 9/2
5.15 Newcastle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
It was an excellent comeback run for Seesawing last month at this venue when 6th after a long break. That form looks quite strong as it has started to work out well.
After an awkward start he moved forward to led toward stands’ side, somewhat isolated there. He seemingly travelled well, before hanging toward the middle of the track from 2 furlongs out; tiering late and losing a few places.
He was entitled to tire, was 330 days off and changed yards in the meantime as well. This run is noteworthy for the strengths of the form and the fact winner and runner-up came from well off the pace, which is no easy task at Newcastle; it gives the form substance, and shows Seesawing ran pretty well from the front.
He’s hopefully fitter today. In any case he’s down to a solid mark that offers opportunities as he’s still lightly raced enough, although also seeking a first career win.
He ran to a speed rating of 63 last year, that ties in nicely with his current mark (minus 3lb claimed by Mark Crehan) and he’s quite unexposed over this sort of trip, especially on the All-Weather and in Handicap company.
I would have liked to see him over 7 furlongs with turn, but the drop to 6 furlongs with a stiff finish as present at Newcastle could be an ideal scenario. There shouldn’t be much competition for the lead and I hope he goes forward, drops his head and will make most of an easy lead.
Meganseigthteen looks a huge chance in this field, as she drops in grade and goes back to the course and distance that saw her hit form again earlier this year.
She was well backed on her debut for the John Butler yard back in June and was arguably an unlucky third that day. Always tracking the pace, she had a hard time getting a clear run, though. She was also hampered and jockey Tom Marquand nearly brought down with half a furlong to go.
Next time at Yarmouth three weeks later she was upped in grade and once again well backed. It was a tougher contest, albeit a smaller field, but she looked wanting for speed and possibly class as well in this higher grade as the race started to heat up.
But once pulled out into daylight and asked for full effort approaching the final furlong marker she responded really well and seemed to unwind for a proper finish, until suddenly finding herself short of room and badly hampered. No chance to recover. She probably wouldn’t have gotten to the eventual winner, but would have gone pretty close with a clear run, I feel.
This is a much easier race, down in grade, two pounds lower than at Yarmouth, a pound lower than at Windsor, Tom Marquand on board again and first time cheekpieces fitted – this filly must have a massive chance to get finally off the mark.
I have one slight concern: ground; depending on how much rain gets into the ground. She is unproven, but the sire won on soft an the dam’s best performance came on yielding ground – so there’s hope.
New London is the right favourite. I’ve followed his season with joy, given he was one of my 5 To Follow for the season as well. He’s gone from strengths to strengths and will have a good chance to win this Classic.
This isn’t a vintage renewal and New London has got the strongest form in the book, plus has beaten some of todays rivals already – therefore it’s easy to see why he is clear at the top of the betting.
It’s hard to argue that his Gordon Stakes victory is a key piece of form that makes him the one to beat today.
Yet, I have some reservations over the combination of trip and ground. New London has got a fair chance to stay, though stamina isn’t a certainty over the Leger trip.
More so, his best performances came on fast ground. While It won’t be bottomless today, there is going to be significant give in ground, nonetheless. The price suggests there are zero worries about either parameter. I have concerns and with that in mind have to oppose him at this short price.
My clear number two on the shortlist is Hoo Ya Mal. A surprise runner-up in the Derby, he was subsequently third behind New London in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
On the surface he was fair and square beaten that day. Nonetheless, in my view he is much more closly matched with the favourite than the final result of that race and the price difference in the betting today suggest.
In the Gordon Stakes Hoo Ya Mal seriously caught my eye, in fact. He improved in fine style from five furlongs out; he made rapid progress in the home straight and hit the front two furlongs from home. Ultimately, he paid the price in the closing stages for this huge but inefficient effort.
Plenty has been made of Hoo Ya Mal’s subsequent and most recent victory in the March Stakes. It was a workmanlike performance, rather than a fleshy effort against inferior rivals workmanlike style. But he showed enough to enhance his reputation in my book: he produced a solid change of gear and proved his stamina.
It was a lovely Leger prep, I feel.. Everything points to a big run today. The trip will suit. The ground is unlikely to pose an issue. Different ground conditions and the additional distance could easily see Hoo Ya Mal turn the table with New London.
He’s also closely matched on topspeed with the Godolphin horse: 107 for Hoo Ya Mal’s Derby run; 108 for new London’s victory at Goodwood.
I struggle to make a serious case for other horses in the race. The “hype horse” Haskoy has to prove her class significantly up in class. Eldar Eldarov could improve back over this sort of trip. But I don’t rate him a better chance than Hoo Ya Mal.
Emily Dickinson looks a huge price, and has a solid each-way chance I feel. She stays the trip, has the pedigree and clearly talent; with ease in the ground she may find a bit of improvement, and that would make her dangerous.
10pts win – Hoo Ya Mal @ 8.6
1.15 Curragh: Premier Handicap, 6f
Top-weight Power Under must carry a huge weight in this race. The jury is out whether he’s truly as good as his current 110 Official Rating. However, with soft ground sure to suit, I believe in these type of conditions there’s every chance he is that good, and perhaps a few pound better, in fact.
It has to be, if he should go close today. In saying that, if that turns out to be a correct assessment he’ll be a huge runner in this Premier Handicap.
The 4-year-old caught my eye when last seen over this course and distance. He finished third that day but fared best of those up with the pace. The form looks strong, with the winner holding his own in Group races subsequently, and the runner-up winning a Handicap off a big weight.
One can discount his penultimate run in Group 2 class when he welt, but he was strong in the finish landing a Cork Listed sprint. he seems to do well off breaks, so not having run since June isn’t a concern.
Power Under Me has yet to run to a noteworthy topspeed rating. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. Today he’s got a super chance: a group horse in a Handicap….
10pts win – Power Under Me @ 10/1
2.25 Curragh: Group 1 Flying Five, 5f
As intriguing as this contest is, especially with Highfield Princess and her wonderful success story this season, the market overestimates her chances today, I feel.
She may well struggle after all her recent exertions on the deep ground likely encountered up the Curragh straight. She handles the going, no doubt, but I firmly believe the rain does suit A Case Of You much more.
Especially over the minimum trip, as A Case Of You holds the strongest piece of form in these conditions – his Longchamp victory from last October in heavy going, awarded a 114 topspeed rating, gives him an outstanding chance if he can be in the same form today.
He was an excellent runner-up in the Flying Five 12 months ago, before landing the Prix de l’Abbaye in dramatic fashion. He proved that wasn’t a fluke when winning the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan earlier this year.
Since then two lesser performances raise a few question marks. But with conditions sure to suit today, a fresh A Case Of You should be hard to beat.
No fifth winner in a row. Sophiesticate got close. Really close. Despite drifting out to 12/1 SP. Beaten a neck in the end after a brave performance. This was probably her best chance to win for the next while.
Mellecamp got off to a quick start, led the field and did simply too much too soon. He ran out of gas from two furlongs out and hang quite badly under pressure too. The 7.5f trip was borderline stamina wise but I maintain hope that he can win a race and is better than this mark, which may be reduced even further now. A stiff 6 furlongs looks ideal.
3.10 Beverley: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
Canaria Prince caught the eye a number of times with some brave front-running performances. In a competitive 20-runner handicap at Thirsk when last seen he produced his usual game effort but didn’t quite last the 6 furlongs as the winner and runner-up came from off the pace.
He bumped into some well-handicapped horses lately too. Especially the close runner-up effort behind Elzaal in May at Carlisle rates strongly in my book.
That’s when he tried the minimum trip for only the second time in his career, and also the last time until now. He had excuses on his final start in 2021, the only other run over five furlongs.
Back in May at Carlisle they came clear of the rest of the field and Canaria Prince showed that he has the speed for 5 furlongs but also has a lovely attitude as he always fights well to the line.
Fast ground, a stiff 5 furlongs at Beverley from a good draw looks an ideal combination. If he runs to same level of form as in recent weeks he’s a solid chance, if he can find a tiny bit of improvement for track and trip then he’s probably hard to beat in a poor field.
The three-year-olds Primo and Chant For More rate the biggest threats. Primo in particular, comes here in great form and may be able to defy a hefty rise in the mark, though isn’t one to trust fully and can mess up at the start.
I imagine Mokaman to jump out the quickest, grabbing the rail and setting a fast pace, with Canaria Prince tracking him. There should be no hard luck story for him at all, the race is set up for him to win.
Two lovely winners at good prices the last two days – the ups and downs of the game…. funny how it all goes. Last night at Epsom Hector Loza went from the front and never really looked in danger once he kicked on. 13.5 was always a big price for a potentially seriously well handicapped horse if he was right.
He was. And he was a massive price for all the right reasons. Easy said in hindsight, of course. Often enough these type of horses finish bottom last (and i made a habit of backing them). But he clearly showed in his recent starts still some appetite for the game. No habit of starting slowly. Also a lovely, confident, positive ride by Jack Duern. His 3lb are highly valuable.
June started so badly with those 18 consecutive losers; July started in a rather pleasant way with four winners already. I wouldn’t mind this good spell of form to continue for a while.
2.40 York: Group 3 Summer Stakes, 6f
If the effects of a tough race at Royal Ascot having left too many marks than Flotus should be hard to beat today. The filly looks still improving after a productive juvenile campaign, having ran seriously strong races in defeat the last two times this season.
Obviously her third place finish in the Commonwealth Cup rates the best piece of form in this race. She was bang up with the pace and raced pretty hard in the early stages. She couldn’t bring it quite home, but that’s no shame in such a quality Group 1 sprint.
Arguably even more impressive, in my eyes, was her desperately close runner-up effort at Haydock behind smart Sense Of Duty. The winner has franked the form in no uncertain terms and overall it looks an incredibly strong piece of form.
Flotus fought all the way to the line after attempting to lead wire to wire while Sense Of Duty was held up. I really loved how Flotus kicked on again at the final furlong marker after being heavily challenged. Great attitude!
Trip, ground and track are of no concern today. She poses the fastest speed rating in the field and has confirmed her form this season in excellent style.
There are a few dangers in the field, Gale Force Maya probably the biggest one if she could repeat her latest strong performance. She ran a fast topspeed, a clear career-best, but I wouldn’t trust her to do it again.
Hala Hala Athmani looks improving. Only her fourth start, she can do better. But drawn on the opposite from where most likely the pace will come is far from ideal.
Also on the up is Benefit, a recent Listed race winner. Zain Claudette may improve from her seasonal debut at Ascot. She was a Group 3 winner as a juvenile. But she’s got something to find even at her best with Flotus.
The race promised so much at the beginning of the week. It has significantly lost in excitement with the loss of some key horses that were expected to run and now go somewhere else for supposedly easier options.
It’s still a good race with six proper thoroughbreds going head to head. Let’s not forget only a few weeks ago Bay Bridge was thought to be the next coming of baby Jesus.
Today he’s a 7/2 shot. I was tempted for a moment when even bigger yesterday afternoon, but can’t get over the fact that his Sandown performance is simply overrated in my view, given the better horses that day weren’t fully tuned up most likely.
Even if taking the performance at face value he achieved a 102 topspeed rating – although it’s not unreasonable to assume he could have ran a bit faster – is far from the best on offer in this field today. He also had every chance at Ascot in my view and failed.
Mishriff is the highest rated horse in the race and a proper star. He’s only returning from a break, though. I doubt the test today, given how the race is likely to pan out, will suit.
Alenquer produced a career best at the Curragh. I rate that performance highly. He could be underestimated today again and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I do wonder about a possibly slow pace for him, though. On fast ground it counts against him.
The two most likely to fight it out in my view are the three-year-olds. Superstar juvenile Native Trail has done little wrong this season . I don’t understand the perception that he is not as good a three-year-old as he was a juvenile when he clearly is. He simply meets stiffer competition this year.
He still impresses me, I must say. His Newmarket performance can be marked up for a variety of reason but he was the best horse in the race in my view and simply unlucky the way the race developed.
He put things right at the Curragh. It wasn’t a flashy performance but he did it in the upmost professional manner. He’s given enough indication to believe a step up in trip can work.
How is the fast ground to suit today? And what about the pace? He can take a bit of time to get going. Not ideal in what shapes like a muddling affair.
It’s the conundrum of the day: pace. Or a lack of it. Who is going to do the donkey work? Most if not all of these want to have something to chase after. This will be a sprint finish.
As unoriginally as it is, the fastest horse is French Derby winner Vadeni. His 109 topspeed rating from Chantilly rates even higher given he was nearly pulled up half a furlong from home.
He’s got a proper turn of foot, can quicken off a slowish pace, and looks a thoroughly uncomplicated ride. The fast ground is the one worry I have. It’s new to him. There’s a significant difference between French good ground (as connections called the PDJC ground) and Sandown fast.
But with the 3-year-old weight allowance in addition to the possibility of more improvement, I can’t look past him, especially at a price that should be probably a point shorter I think.
10pts win – Vadeni @ 9/4
1.50 Sandown: Group 3 Coral Charge, 5f
Equilateral is the a clear top rated choice on any measure for me. The bounce factor is a question mark, however that is already more than reflected in the price. If he’s fine after a huge effort at Royal Ascot and gets a clear run I can’t see him getting beaten.
Equilateral returned from a long lay-off in the King’s Stand Stakes. He travelled beautifully through the race, tracked Nature Strip from over two furlongs out and naturally failed to match the superstar sprinter. He finished a highly credible 5th, though.
That performance was worth a 102 topspeed rating. Just another one in the list of 100+ performances he produced in this career. He looks still strong and fast on the basis of this run and is considerably overpriced.
10pts win – Equilateral @ 11/2
2.25 Sandown: Class 2 Handicap, 1m
It pains me that I can’t back Checkandchallenge because I was really keen on him after his eye-catching Guineas run that was much better than the bare form suggested. I absolutely loved his Newcastle victory too.
At 4/1 on properly fast ground I can’t have him off 108, though. He may be too good and can overcome it, but I have the impression the fast ground won’t be to his advantage.
There is one alternative I have been tracking the whole year already: Trais Fluors. Admittedly the latest Windsor performance has given me pause for thought and I am a little less excited to jump on board. He looked laboured that day. So a clear risk to back when backing him today: what’s his form?
However, the positives outweigh the risks in an open race where he’s certainly handicapped to go close if he finds back to the form previously shown in three runs this season.
He caught the eye on all three of those runs. Desperately unlucky at Thirsk, not a clear passage on his seasonal debut at Newbury before and he made a huge impression from off the pace dominated by those up or closer to it at Redcar, finishing the second half of the race the fastest.
Down to a mark of 85 he’s given a proper chance. He won last summer over course and distance on fast ground off 92. He ran to topspeed 91 that day.
Back at Sandown with De Sousa in the saddle he has a good chance to outrun his price. Whether that’s good enough to win in this hot contest remains to be seen. He needs a bit of “luck” from off the pace. I have him a better shot nonetheless to deliver today.
10pts win – Trais Fluors @ 10/1
6.50 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
Twice Adaay has been knocking on the door a couple of times this season over 6 furlongs. She caught my eye in May at Ripon when she moved forward into a prominent position after slightly sluggish start. She lost her position before the two furlong marker as she got behind a wall of horses. She was short of room over one furlong from home again, but finished well enough and easy on the eye.
The drop to the minimum trip is sure to suit, especially with rain forecast. Her best performances came over five furlongs with cut in the ground, so conditions will be perfect.
She is down to a mark off 55, a single pound above her last (and only) winning mark when she took a 5 furlong contest at Beverley last July. She seems to give her best running also on these slightly tricky specialist tracks, as she possesses good balance and should enjoy Carlisle in the rain.
Having ran to topspeeds of 58 (on fibresand though), 56 and 54 on turf, she is reasonably well handicapped, with 5lb claiming Laura Coughlin offering additional assistance.
10pts win – Twice Adaay @ 8/1
7.00 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
Lightly-raced Bibulous makes plenty of appeal here, even though I envision he might be even better over an additional furlong. I still believe even over 6 furlongs he can be better handicapped than the current mark, and his recent finish at Chepstow is a good indication for this notion.
The June race was his seasonal reappearance after a light campaign as a three-year-old with only three runs including an impressive victory at Kempton over 6 furlongs.
At Chepstow he travelled at the rear of the field after a restrained start. He looked to go pretty well, was eventually switched to the stands’ side over two furlongs out where he started his run home. He didn’t have an instant change of gear but it also appeared he didn’t quite enjoy the undulations and especially downhill portion of the course.
However once balanced he rattled home much the strongest suggesting that there’s more to come on a slightly more conventional straight sprint course. He remains on the same 68 handicap mark, which is more than fair I reckon. He already ran to a 67 topspeed last season. Any improvement will see him hard to beat.
A field full of question marks. None more so than behind Monsieur Jumbo after his recent seemingly disappointing effort at Beverley. However, if you can forgive him that particular run you see a pretty consistent horse that ran quite a bit better than bare form suggests.
I think there is good reason to show leniency and forgive the Beverley performance. Beside his customary poor start, he simply didn’t seem to enjoy the sharp, turning track in combination with the fastish ground. He didn’t get the best of runs home, either, and didn’t seem to stay the 8.5 furlongs in its entirety.
Even though the jury is still out whether he really gets home over a mile or slightly above, given on pedigree that looks possible; though at Nottingham before, even though seemingly staying on, he simply slowed a little bit less than some very tired horses in front of him.
In any case 7 furlongs is fine and I imagine ease in the ground may help as well to slow things down just a little bit. Haydock is an easier track and should suit, given Monsieur Jumbo ran really well at similar type of tracks, including once here as a juvenile.
He was only a neck beaten on proper soft ground over 6 furlongs at Ayr in his final start last year. He came back and won quite well over 7 furlongs at Newcastle. He ran with credit in all subsequent races – bar the latest Beverly performance. And was seriously eye-catching at Wolverhampton in May when third coming from behind in a race dominated by the front-runners.
The handicapper hasn’t been lenient at all. Dropped him only a single pound since Beverley. But the Wolverhampton runs suggests he could be better than this mark, especially if he can find a bit of improvement for the trip in these conditions with cheek-pieces on again. It’s Tom Eaves only ride on the day, which may or may not bear any significance too.
It’s obviously a massive price, which doesn’t make any sense from a form perspective. He’s got form that ties in with Skittlebombz, who’s a 11/2 at the time of writing.
He’s got an entry days later. I have an inclination for what might be going on and that may mean I won’t get a run for my money. But this is a silly price for a horse clearly with a much better chance if allowed to run on merit.
10pts win – Monsieur Jumbo @ 20/1
3.30 Haydock: Class 4 Handicap, 7f
Any additional drop of rain will be of benefit to Cold Stare. The 7-year-old is more than ready to win, especially as he now gets suitable ground conditions and drops down to class 4 where. The last two times he raced in this grade (last season) he won both times off 85 and 87 marks, including over course and distance and ran to topspeeds 88 and 91.
He’s now down to 85 again, after meeting better opposition lately and not rarely having softish ground conditions. He caught the eye last month over this CD, too, when there was a tiny bit of ease in the ground as he made significant progress from the back of the field in a hot contest before tiering late.
He was a massive eyecatcher at Doncaster on his seasonal reappearance as well when multiple times hampered and short of room in the closing stages. Six pounds lower today than at the start of the season it’s clear Cold Stare is handicapped to win, especially over this CD on softish ground.
He’s got to carry a big weight but that shouldn’t stop him, given he’s the class act in this field and ran incredibly well off heavy weights in the past.
10pts win – Cold Stare @ 11/2
7.11 Epsom: Class 3 Handicap, 6f
Papa Cocktail makes tons of appeal dropping down to 6 furlongs in first-time blinkers. He caught the eye a number of times lately, but gave the indication he wouldn’t mind this drop in trip.
It should be a pretty fast race but stamina more than speed may be the decisive factor in the end. Bowman and Dubai Hope will probably go out hard. All this should suit Papa Cocktail who often travels quite well but was found out over a mile and a bit unlucky last time at Newmarket when short of room at a crucial stage. I reckon that particular piece of form is really strong.
Off a mark off 78 he offers a bit of upside I feel. He ran to topspeed 75 the last time, to 79 in April. He’s still quite unexposed over 6 furlongs. Two runs, both better than the bare form suggests.
Blinkers should help him to focus especially towards the end of the race. Given he stays further but has enough speed for the trip looks an ideal combination for this race.
It’s Royal Ascot week. Exciting for many reasons, but mostly due to all the international competition. My excitement is slightly tempered nonetheless because on the bread and butter betting front I struggle to back a winner.
Even though the Eyecatchers perform really well, I simply don’t back the ones that win. That can happen. A number of poor decisions haven’t helped and that means I’m on 15 losers on the bounce right now. Today are pure value selections that are low percentage plays not necessarily likely to turn that around.
But I got to believe in the process that served me well for six straight years, not to forget April and May were green months, in fact. So here we go:
2.45 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
I am interested in Stone Circle here for obvious reasons, but I don’t think the fast ground will suit entirely, hence there is zero juice left in his price this morning.
One who looks seriously overpriced is the 6-year-old gelding Sharrabang. He showed some spark the last time at this venue, even though over 5 furlongs.
He was up with the pace early on, disputed the lead as part of a trio. He started to come under pressure from over 2 furlongs out, struggling to keep up the tempo. But he kept going, only to be ever so gently being pushed toward the inside by a rival, finding himself in a tight spot.
As a consequence he was a bit short of room over 1f from home, lost momentum and couldn’t find it again. This should be strong form for this grade in my view.
The minimum trip on fast ground was never to suit entirely, so the fact he ran so well despite the trouble is noteworthy. He needs 6 furlongs, despite a win over 5 furlongs last year – but that came on softish ground – and stays up to 7f on fast ground too and acts well on the All-Weather.
Hence I do think the stiff 6 furlongs at Carlisle suit him down to the grounds, a notion his past form would support. He has come down some way in the mark ever since the victory last May. Yet he also ran well a number of times last season when he achieved topspeeds of 50 and 52, was competitive of marks in the low 50’s and therefore could take advantage of a basement mark with the right conditions I feel.
In terms of conditions I can’t see any reason for excuses. The 3lb claim of Faye McManoman is good value normally and she knows the horse. The #7 isn’t a big deal in my view. I really expect a good run today from Sharrabang despite the massive price.
10pts win – Sharrabang @ 19/1
3.15 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
I was really keen on Marselan the other day at Catterick – which was stupid for the simple fact he never stood a chance from the wide draw and I got blinded by his sensational LTO performance, simply negating the obvious facts of track bias.
It happened what must happen. Marselan was never in the race. It’s one to draw a line through.
Ideally I want to see him over 7 furlongs, no question. So am I about to make the same mistake twice? I don’t think so. Off a 61 mark over a stiff 6 furlongs that requires some stamina in the final third it all play to his strengths today. The #8 draw is nowhere near as big a deal as the wider draw at Catterick was.
Marselan was one of THE eye-catchers of the year so far, for me personally. At Thirsk last months he raced as part of a duo isolated on the stand’s side. The pair was lengths behind the main bunch and had plenty to do with two furlongs to go. Marselan found tons to finish much the strongest to grab 2nd place, the only with a finish speed of over 100%. He also achieved a career best 60 topspeed rating that day.
He returned fresh from a wind operation which seemingly worked. The loss of form last year can most likely be attributed to breathing issues.
He won of 65 and 67 last summer over 7 furlongs. Now down to 61 he’s obviously well handicapped with the breathing issues rectified. Ryan Sexton claims highly valuable 5lb too, the cherry on the cake, so to speak.
Small field and interesting from a pace angle, this class 4 Handicap looks a weak race nonetheless. Most if not all of these could have a claim to grab the lead, or at the very least follow it closely. How will this pan out?
Two from my eyecatcher list are running, with Ex Gratia preferred in the market over Devilwala.
The filly caught my eye at Lingfield on the All-Weather and subsequently ran a good race when second on Lingfield’s turf course. Ultimately she didn’t have excuses the last time and off the same mark I don’t think she is anything better than handicapped to her best form. That can be good enough in this weak race today, but her temperamental issues are off putting too.
Devilwala is clearly the one I am most interested from a price perspective, though. Whether today is the day remains to be seen. The jockey booking isn’t inspiring. But there are a number of things I like that make be believe he’s got a better than one in ten chance to win today given he’s down to a really sexy handicap mark.
He came to my attention at Ripon in April when he ran a lot better than the bare result suggested, in my view. He clearly didn’t stay the mile and the opposition was too hot most likely, anyway.
The next three times he races against even hotter competition and stood no chance, although the last time at Chester I felt he didn’t get the best of runs and he could have finished closer.
If I believe this to be true then I must firmly believe he’s a proper chance today, given he drops in class off 5lb lower in the Official Rating running over what’s most likely his optimum trip.
Obviously Devilwala has fallen a long way from the previous heights of being rated 113 and finishing only 2¾ behind St. Mark’s Basilica in the Dewhurst. Obviously there is every chance that he’s gone. But I felt he showed enough this year to assume he still has some appetite for the game.
10pts win – Devilwala @ 10/1
3.40 York: Class 2 Handicap, 6f
This is a ultra-competitive sprint Handicap and I can make the case for more than a handful to be in with a realistic shout. Plenty of potential improvers and loads of strong LTO form on offer.
Yet my eye is drawn to Vintage Clarets, one who’s not shown anything on paper this year so far. He’s far from a likely winner, nonetheless I feel you won’t find many days a better 22/1 shot.
If one looks what’s underpinning his 2022 form then he’s performed with more credit than those naked results would tell. For one he’s raced in hot races three times, the last time over course and distance against older horses. A seriously tough assignment. He was too keen early on and faded away in the closing stages but long time was right in the mix.
At Chester he ran actually quite a good race in unsuitable conditions, even clocking the fasted split for the penultimate furlong. He’s nine pounds lower in the mark than when he started the season at Newmarket – off 87 I think he’s dangerous given he showed enough the last two times to suggest there’s life.
Obviously as an early peaking juvenile last year, third in the Coventry, only 2 lengths down in the highly competitive Super Sprint, one has to take it with a pinch of salt as this often doesn’t translate to 3-year-old form.
But crucially Vintage Clarets will have his preferred fast ground today for the first time this year. He’s likely to have a pace to chase from his draw, which might help him to settle better and tow him into the closing stages with a shot.
Others may improve past him, have better form and he may simply be nowhere near as good an older horse as he was a juvenile. At 22s it’s low risk high reward given at this point in time he looks a horse capable of running to mark in the low 90s in ideal conditions.
10pts win – Vintage Clarets @ 22/1
6.45 Leicester: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f
Beryl Burton is a very obvious choice in this and I have her about a 6/4 chance, rather than the generous odds on offer. The favourite Haven Lady is clearly progressing nicely on turf over this trip and may have more to offer, but simply hasn’t run overly fast yet, hence she’s vulnerable in my book.
Contrasting that with Beryl Burton who was seriously unlucky last time out over ten furlongs, she ran to topspeed 56 that day. For a neck beaten 2nd place she is up two pounds but should be well able to defy it with a clear run and for possible improvement over the additional distance.
She doesn’t have a sexy profile with one single victory in 13 lifetime starts, but she knocked on the door a number of times and her pedigree suggests 12 furlongs is well within range, a trip she’s completely unexposed.
Nine days ago at Redcar she was held up and travelled well, making excellent progress in the home straight, but ultimately didn’t get a run at a crucial stage, while the eventual winner, still well handicapped Rocket Dancer, got first run. She got out with a furlong to go and finished much the strongest.
The obvious question marks today aren’t whether she is good enough to win off 56 – she clearly is, and neither is it a mater of stamina, I believe. however she can have a tendency to be keen early on and that can be fatal over the additional distance.
I hope there’s enough pace on with the obvious leaders Haven Lady and Eagle One. It’s a small enough field, which at least should minimise any danger of meeting trouble.
With the rain arriving at Windsor turning the going soft Firenze Rosa encounters ideal conditions over the minimum trip today. The handicapper has been kind enough to drop her mark to 53 since her latest – I felt – eye catching run over the same CD.
There she travelled pretty well until about the halfway stage. Was then stuck behind horses. Briefly tracking the initial winner but not getting through on the inside. The inexperienced jockey perhaps wasn’t quite brave enough to take a gap on the stands’ side until very late too.
She was 1lb out of the weights, too. Today is an easier race. She won of a mark of 56 in soft here at Windsor about a year ago and she finished the turf season in October with a really strong runner-up effort of a 57 mark running to a 57 TS rating that day.
The #10 draw will give her every chance to get a clear run on the outside I hope, Mollie Phillips claims valuable 5lb and knows the mare from previous rides.
10pts win – Firenze Rosa @ 14.5
7.30 Pontefract: Class 5 Handicap, 5f
The top three in the market are all vulnerable from their current handicap mark, hence this looks a good opportunity for Van Gerwen to get his head in front as a value alternative.
He was far from disgraced ten days ago over course and distance in a stronger race where he didn’t get an ideal run, only two days after encountering trouble in the closing stages at Ripon that prevented him from potentially winning.
That day he seemed poised for a major move but was repeatedly short of room until nearly the very final moment of the race.
The gives him a real chance having dropped him to a mark of 66. He’s a pound below his latest winning mark with that. He also ran to topspeed 62, 65 and 67 last season. A highly consistent sort, wellbeing confirmed down to a good mark and down to a realistic class.