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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Great St. Wilfrid Stakes, 3:30, Ripon, Saturday 15th

The Great St. Wilfrid Stakes, a handicap run over 6 furlongs at Ripon, is the most valuable race of the year at the Yorkshire track. The race has thrown up six winners at double-figure prices in the last ten years, including Pepper Lane (20/1) in 2012 and Damika (18/1) in 2010, so another generously-priced winner isn’t out of the question.

Regular readers will have noticed that we’ve been following Poyle Vinnie (16/1) with great interest in recent weeks. Michael Appleby’s 5-year-old proved something of a revelation when making all to read win the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton, on soft going, in mid-July, but fared less well under a 6lb penalty when only eighteenth of twenty-seven, beaten 7¼ lengths, behind Magical Memory in the Goodwood equivalent two weeks ago.

The handicapper has had his say and raised the Piccolo gelding another 3lb but, with outbreaks of heavy, thundery rain forecast for North Yorkshire on Thursday and Friday, he could have what appear to be his optimum conditions by Saturday afternoon. If that’s the case, he’s well drawn, in stall 1, on a course that traditionally favours runners that race on, or close to, the pace.

Another runner who’s made our shortlist more than once in recent weeks is Shore Step (12/1), who finished second in the Sky Bet Dash at York, despite a slipping saddle and fourth in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, despite being hampered in the closing stages. Mick Channon’s 5-year-old has been raised another 2lb, but is still only 5lb higher in the weights than when winning at Doncaster on his final start last season and looks an improved performer this term.

Barnet Fair (16/1) finished second in the consolation race for the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood last season and second again in the race proper, off the same handicap mark, two weeks ago. He, too has been raised 3lb, but has been threatening to win one of these competitive sprint handicaps all season. All bar three of his 43 starts on turf have come on good or faster going and all four wins have come with “firm” in the going description, so testing conditions would be something of an unknown, but he remains feasibly weighted.

The last word this week must go to Clear Spring (33/1), who’s the complete ‘rag’ with some bookmakers. John Spearing’s 7-year-old unseated Cam Hardie shortly after the start in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, but is only 1lb higher in the weights than when beating the winner, Golden Steps, at Newbury in May. His subsequent form hasn’t been as good, but he has winning form over course and distance and on soft ground, has recorded his best form when ridden prominently and is well drawn in stall 3.

So, in a break with tradition, our four against the field this week are, in order of preference, Poyle Vinnie (16/1 generally available), Clear Spring (33/1 generally available), Shore Step (12/1 generally available) and Barnet Fair (16/1 with Coral). Good luck!

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