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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Totepool Challenge Cup Preview

The Totepool Challenge Cup, run over the straight 7 furlongs at Ascot, is invariably about as competitive as they come, so it’s slightly surprising that the race has only thrown up two winners at ‘silly’ prices – Candidato Boy at 50/1 in 2007 and Advanced at 33/1 in 2009 – in the last ten years. However, the prospect of unseasonably fast ground creates further complication for connections alike so, as usual, we’ve put up two or three runners who could go well at generous odds.

Eastern Impact (20/1) is a horse we’ve followed with some interest this season, but Richard Fahey’s three-year-old finished stone cold last, and a long last at that, on his first attempt against his elders in the Ayr Gold Cup two weeks ago. That run was, frankly, too bad to be true and, provided he’s recovered from whatever was ailing him at Ayr, he looks well worth another chance. He finished strongly to win a similar grade handicap, over 6 furlongs, on the July Course at Newmarket on his previous start, despite being hampered and denied a clear run in the closing stages, so he looks far from impossibly handicapped off a 5lb higher mark. The step up to 7 furlongs represents a step into the unknown, especially on a testing track such as Ascot, but his pedigree and his style of racing suggest an extra furlong may well be within his compass.

We’re also fans of Heavy Metal (20/1), although it would be fair to say that Mark Johnston’s four-year-old hasn’t cut much ice since just being touched off, over a mile, a Goodwood four starts ago. However, his previous winning form over 7 furlongs, including over course and distance in July, suggests that he’s feasibly weighted off a handicap mark of 98 and he could go close if back to anything approaching his best. He’s won on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so he should be suited by underfoot conditions whatever the weather in the South East and looks one for our shortlist.

Last, but hopefully not least, Sirius Prospect (25/1) also has winning form over 7 furlongs on a variety of ground and is only 1lb higher in the weights than when winning over a mile at Kempton last November. The Gone West gelding has run creditably in defeat on his last three starts, including at Newbury last month, when returning from a break, and may be ready to strike at the sixth time of asking this season. He won five times over shorter as a three-year-old, but 7 furlongs or a mile suits him better these days, so the uphill climb from the top of the home straight to the furlong marker at Ascot should be ideal.

In summary, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Eastern Impact (20/1 with William Hill), Heavy Metal (20/1 generally) and Sirius Prospect (25/1 generally).

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