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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap Preview

It’s not often that we have the chance of a midweek ‘tilt’, but the Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap (4.40) at Haydock on Thursday has been well supported, with 15 runners due to face the starter, so we’ve decided to risk a small proportion of our betting bank on a couple at fancy odds.

The first one that takes our eye is Headline News, trained in Newmarket by Rae Guest. The lightly-raced daughter of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celebre won over 1 mile 2 furlongs on soft going at Sandown last September, off a handicap mark of 75, but finished well when fourth, beaten 1¾ lengths, again over 1 mile 2 furlongs, on her reappearance at Windsor in July, off a handicap mark of 83, and is 2lb lower in the weights here. She won over the testing mile-and-a-half at Leicester as a 3-year-old, so her stamina for an extra quarter of a mile or so shouldn’t be an issue and, although she comes into the race on the back of two quieter runs, he trainer believes she is up to Listed class on her day.

If she is, stepping back up in distance on rain-softened ground could be just what she needs at this stage of her career and she could, potentially, make a mockery of a handicap mark of 81. It’s worth noting that Rae Guest has won with one of the two older horses he’s saddled at Haydock during the last five seasons and Headline News is the only ride of the afternoon for regular partner Chris Catlin. Indeed, Chris Catlin is also riding in the 6.10 at Wolverhampton, 73 miles to the south down the M6, so he’ll have to get his skates on to make it from one course to the other.

Another who could go well at a shade of odds is Highland Castle, also trained in Newmarket, but this time by David Elsworth. The Halling gelding returned to the yard after just two starts for Brian Meehan and it’s easy to forgive him finishing last of eleven, beaten 43 lengths, on his most recent start at Newmarket twelve days ago after being off the course since May. He won over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Newmarket last June off a 1lb higher mark and has run creditably in defeat off handicap marks in the nineties, including on soft going, on more than one occasion since, so looks well-handicapped if anywhere near his best.

Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ granted his recent form, but it’s likely to be reflected in his price and he can actually race off his lowest handicap mark since winning over course and distance as a 3-year-old. It’s too soon to be writing him off altogether and the fact that jockey Graham Lee is 1-3 for the yard is also quite encouraging.

So, in summary, our two against the field are, in order of preference, Headline News and Highland Castle. Good luck!

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