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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Balmoral Handicap Preview

QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot is typically more about quality than quantity. However, the last race on Saturday’s card, the Balmoral Handicap, has a maximum field size of 30 and provides us with another opportunity to unearth, or at least try to unearth, a long-priced winner.

Hawkeyethenoo (33/1) won over 1 mile 100 yards at Beverley as a three-year-old, when in the care of Michael Easterby, but has not been tried over further than 7 furlongs in the five years since his transfer to Jim Goldie. However, the eight-year-old has suggested on recent starts – particularly his penultimate start, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot – that a step up in distance could be what he needs at this stage of his career. He’s only won once with ‘soft’ in the going description, but has run well enough on soft going to suggest that testing underfoot conditions at the Berkshire track won’t hinder his chance. From a handicapping perspective, he’s 4lb lower in the weights than when edging out Imperial Guest in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood two seasons ago, so a belated return to the winners’ enclosure at Ascot may not be entirely out of the question.

Farlow (50/1) is by the top-class Australian sprinter Exceed And Excel, but nevertheless has some decent form over a mile, including on soft going, and may have been underestimated by the bookmakers. Richard Fahey’s six-year-old is just 1lb higher in the weights than when finishing fourth, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Brae Hill in the William Hill Spring Mile at Doncaster in March and ran his best race for a while when third, over 7 furlongs, at Ayr nine days ago. He’s the least fancied of three entries from Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank yard but, thankfully, he doesn’t know that and he could go well at extravagant odds.

German import Empire Storm (33/1) ran his best race since joining Michael Attwater when second in the Totepool Challenge Cup, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot two weeks ago and is another who looks overpriced in the ante post market. His third, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind Custom Cut in a Listed race, over 1 mile 67, at Windsor in July makes good reading in light of the subsequent exploits of David O’Meara’s gelding and, although 2lb higher in the weights this time, looks far from impossibly handicapped. A testing mile on heavy or soft going should play to his strengths and, although he hasn’t won for over two years, it’s surprising that he’s such a big price.

Anyway, for richer for poorer, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Hawkeyethenoo (33/1 generally available), Farlow (50/1 with Coral) and Empire Storm (33/1 generally available). Of course, if you’re in search of even bigger prices, it may be worth having a dabble on Betfair, or the Tote, on Saturday. Good luck!