At this time of year, large fields on the Flat and frequent going changes increase the likelihood of ‘shock’ winners and make life difficult for the typical punter, but are a godsend as far as we’re concerned. Sprint handicaps are notoriously difficult to solve in any case, so the 4.20 at Nottingham on Wednesday, a lowly Class 5 (0-75) handicap due to be run over 5 furlongs and 13 yards, with 17 declarations, looks just the race for us.
Rusty Rocket won a 0-90 contest at Redcar in May off a handicap mark of 80, so would clearly have an outstanding chance in this lower grade off his current mark of 75, if anywhere near his best. He’s won on good to firm, good, good to soft and soft going, so clearly isn’t ground-dependent, so why he’s failed to reproduce that level of form in seven subsequent starts is something of a mystery. That said, he’s never been the most consistent but, his current handicap mark is his lowest since winning at Catterick last season and he drops into this grade for the first time since, so he wouldn’t be winning out of turn.
Nocturn has clearly deteriorated since winning a 0-105 contest, over 6 furlongs, at Newmarket off a handicap mark of 94 way back in his 4-year-old days. In fact, the Oasis Dream gelding has won just once since joining Ronald Harris in February last year, but even on that form would have an excellent chance. He’s 6lb lower in the weights than when winning a 0-85 contest, over 5 furlongs, at Windsor in July last year and, with Ciaran McKee taking off a further 5lb, is extremely well handicapped on his bets form. He has yet to win on going softer than good, but has run well on more than one occasion with cut in the ground, so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by underfoot conditions.
Young Tiger is 1lb out of the handicap proper and took a backward step when only seventh of 10, beaten 5½ lengths, in a Class 5 maiden at Newcastle last month, but may be better judged on his previous effort at Beverley. He only weakened in the last hundred yards when beaten 2½ lengths by the 74-rated Dance Alone on that occasion, on just his second start, so looks well treated off a mark of 60 on his handicap debut. He’s bed to be speedy and remains open to significant improvement on just his third start on turf.
Selections: Nottingham 4.20 Rusty Rocket, Nocturn, Young Tiger