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Thursday, 19 May 2016

4:10 Haydock, Saturday 21st May

The Temple Stakes, run over 5 furlongs at Haydock, is a prestigious and valuable race in its own right, but often serves as a preparatory race for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Four favourites have won in the last ten years, but winners at 14/1 and 10/1 in the last three renewals provide a glimmer of hope as far as this column is concerned.

Strictly speaking, Aeolus (28/1) has 12lb to find with ante post favourite Mecca’s Angel on official ratings, but Ed Walker’s 5-year-old should be fit as a flea after running well on both starts this season. He finished sixth of 21, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Profitable in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on his first attempt over the minimum trip and, with rain forecast in the North West on Friday evening, he could have underfoot conditions to suit.

Steps (25/1) finished out with the washing in the Palace House Stakes on his seasonal reappearance and is another who could do with a drop of rain, but is a smart sprinter on his day, as he demonstrated when getting up close home to win the Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury last September. Trainer Roger Varian has a healthy 6-24 (25%) strike with his older horses at Haydock over the last five seasons, so Steps could go better than his odds suggest.

Take Cover (18/1) has recorded his best form on a sound surface and is another who should be fighting fit after finishing fifth in the Palace House Stakes on just his second start since October. He has something to find with Goldream on their running in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp last season, but went close in Group 2 company a couple of times and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Selections: Haydock 4.10 Aeolus (28/1), Steps (25/1), Take Cover (18/1)

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

2.40 York, Wednesday May 11th

The Infinity Tyres Stakes, run over 6 furlongs at York, is a highly competitive contest, in which the leading bookmakers bet 6/1 the field, and 10/1 bar one, so it’s just the race for a midweek ‘dabble’.

Down among the ‘dead men’, Love Island (50/1) hasn’t won for nearly two years, but is consequently reasonably handicapped on her best form. Richard Whitaker’s mare has been placed on all three starts on the Knavesmire, including twice over course and distance, and is just 2lb higher in the weights than when just touched off on her last visit, last June. She’s versatile ground-wise and ran well on hear seasonal debut last term, so her chance may not be as forlorn as her generous odds suggest.

Red Pike (25/1) is another who started last season in good form, finishing fourth, beaten 2½ lengths, behind Mukhmal in a similar race at Ascot on his second start. His form tailed off afterwards and, while he’s not obviously well handicapped, he should strip fitter for his reappearance at Ponterfract last month and the return to faster underfoot conditions should help. Hambleton trainer Bryan Smart has a distinctly ordinary record on the Knavesmire, but Red Pike still looks overpriced.

Yeeoow (25/1) need to drop into lowly claiming company to record his last win, at Lingfield in January, but has continued to run creditably in handicaps since. His two career wins on turf came over 6 furlongs on good to firm going off handicap marks of 90 and 84, so he’s not badly treated off his current mark of 85, even if he is already having his third race in the month of May. He’s also drawn on the opposite side of the track from Love Island and Red Pike, so we’ve covered any draw bias. Good luck!

Selections: York 2.40 Love Island (50/1), Red Pike (25/1), Yeeoow (25/1)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Chester Cup Outsiders - May 4th - 15:10

The Chester Cup, run over 2 miles 2 furlongs on the left-handed, circular course at the Roodeye, has thrown up winners at 33/1, 28/1, 14/1, 12/1 and 10/1 (three times) in the last ten years and that’s more than good enough to warrant a rare midweek ‘tilt’.

Historically, a low draw is a necessity, so let’s start with the horse drawn lowest of all, Venue (40/1). After winning a small 0-100 handicap over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Haydock for Lady Cecil as a three-year-old, the Beat Hollow gelding made a promising start to his hurdling career for Donald McCain last spring and, although his subsequent efforts in handicaps this season has been less inspiring, he remains completely unexposed as a stayer on the Flat. The Cholmondley trainer makes life awkward by also saddling William Of Orange (20/1), but Venue can race off the same mark as when winning a Haydock, has no stamina issues and acts on good to soft going, so has plenty going for him if anywhere near his best.

Le Maitre Chat (16/1), drawn in stall 7, has just a soft ground maiden win to his name, but ran an eye-catching race on his one and only attempt beyond 2 miles 1 furlong when a fast-finishing sixth of 34, beaten 2 lengths, behind Grumeti in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October. He’s 1lb higher in the weights and hasn’t been seen in public since last November, but should appreciate any cut in the ground and is attractively weighted if fit and ready to do himself justice.

John Reel (20/1), drawn in stall five, ran well from stall 15 last year, when sixth of 17, beaten 5 lengths, behind Trip To Paris and is 1lb lower in the weights this time around. David Evans’ seven-year-old has yet to win a race of any description on the Flat, but both his wins under National Hunt rules came on soft going, so any rain would be in his favour. He’s still, arguably, a little high in the handicap, but Adam Kirby has a decent strike rate on older horses for the yard this season and he should be there or thereabouts.

Selections: Chester 3.10, Venue (40/1), Le Maitre Chat (16/1), John Reel (20/1)