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Thursday 12 June 2014

Scottish Sprint Cup Preview

One outright favourite and one joint favourite has won the Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh since 2004, but other winners in that period went off at 50/1, 28/1, 25/1, 20/1 and 16/1, so it’s a race that’s right up our street. This year’s renewal, due off at 3.35 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, has attracted 17 runners and, with all bar one of them priced up at 10/1 or longer odds ante post, we should be able to find a few that represent value.

It’s interesting to note that, despite the apparent absence of any draw bias over 5 furlongs at Musselburgh, especially on soft ground, seven of the last 10 winners were drawn in stall 10 or higher. This fact hasn’t escaped the notice of the bookmakers and, predictably, the seven longest-priced horses in the ante post market are drawn in single-figure stalls.

Dinkum Diamond (20/1) has never won a handicap, although he was beaten just two necks in the Investec Specialist Bank “Dash” at Epsom, off a 10lb lower mark, last June. Despite a couple wins at Listed level, the Aussie Rules gelding has repeatedly failed to make the transition to Pattern company, but has his sights lowered again, so could go well at rewarding odds even under 9st 10lb. Musselburgh is arguably on the sharp side for him, but there’s unlikely to be any hanging about here and the faster they go the better for him.

Former Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp winner Tangerine Trees (16/1) is on a losing run of 10 and only 6lb better off for the 4 lengths he finished behind the ante post favourite Caspian Prince in this year’s Investec Specialist “Dash” at Epsom, so doesn’t exactly leap off the page as a readymade winner-in-waiting. However, he’s run well on both visits to Musselburgh, including a win in the Totepool Borderlescott Sprint Trophy over course and distance last March, so an improved performance would be no great surprise. He’s nicely drawn in stall 16, has winning form over 5 furlongs on good to soft and soft going and looks fairly weighted, off a handicap mark of 99, if anywhere near his best.

Former Stewards’ Cup winner Hawkeyethenoo (16/1) is another who hasn’t won for ages, but the last time he raced over 5 furlongs on soft going, at Doncaster last October, he was beaten just half a length off his current mark of 105. We’re reliably informed, by our friends at the BBC, that heavy rain is forecast for East Lothian on Thursday and Friday, so he could have ideal conditions by Saturday afternoon. Believe it or not, his course and distance win came as a three-year-old off a handicap mark of 54, so isn’t really significant, but he’s another who’s well-drawn in stall 15 and can prove a popular winner for East Renfrewshire trainer Jim Goldie.

With one eye on the sky, all our selections have winning form on soft going and they are, in order of preference:

Dinkum Diamond (20/1 with Betvictor)
Hawkeyethenoo (16/1 with Totesport, Betfred and Betvictor)
Tangerine Trees (16/1 generally)

Good luck!

Monday 2 June 2014

Derby Preview

Australia has been ante post favourite for the Investec Derby (4.00 p.m. Epsom, Saturday, June 7) ever since he impressively won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Trial Turf Stakes, over a mile, at Leopardstown last September and was hailed by his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, as ‘the best horse we’ve ever had’. The Galileo colt confirmed his position at the head of the ante post market when finishing third, beaten half a length and a head, behind Night Of Thunder and Kingman in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket five weeks ago and co-owner Michael Tabor told At The Races last week that ‘people in Ballydoyle will be surprised if Australia doesn't win’.

However, Aidan O’Brien has expressed his concerns about the possibility of soft ground at Epsom on Derby Day and, with the going currently good to soft, good in places and an unsettled forecast for the week ahead, underfoot conditions may not be ideal for Australia. Furthermore, O’Brien also failed to categorically deny that another of his Derby entries, Geoffrey Chaucer, had comprehensively beaten Australia in a gallop at Ballydoyle so, for all his Classic credentials, Australia looks poor value at even money.

The good news, as far as we’re concerned is that the bookmakers bet 12/1 bar the O’Brien pair already mentioned, so there must be a decent chance of an upset. The longest priced winner of the Derby in the last ten years was Ruler Of The World at 7/1 last year, but looking further back, High Rise (20/1), Snow Knight (50/1) and Morston (25/1) all belied long odds, so a shock result is not entirely out of the question.

Although not strictly an outsider, insofar as he’s 12/1 third favourite in the ante post lists, Kingston Hill looks overpriced if the going at Epsom remains on the soft side. The son of champion first-season sire Mastercraftsman, out of a Rainbow Quest mare, has 4¼ lengths to find with Australia on their running in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes, but the way he kept on steadily at Newmarket, albeit with threatening the leaders, suggested that stepping up to a mile and a half would be in his favour. Indeed, he stayed on strongly when winning the Racing Post Trophy, over a mile, on soft going at Doncaster last October and, while a line through the runner-up Johann Strauss also gives him something to find with Australia, he looks to have bright prospects of reversing the Guineas form if conditions remain in his favour.

Sir Michael Stoute has won the Derby five times, most recently with Workforce in 2010, so Snow Hill (25/1) must be worth a second look. The Nayef colt has 2¼ lengths to find with impressive winner Western Hymn on their running over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Newbury in April, but improved to win the Derby Trial Stakes, over 1 mile 3½ furlongs, at Lingfield four weeks ago. Exactly what that form amount to is hard to tell, but it seems the further he goes the better he is so, with underfoot conditions sure to suit, whatever the weather, he looks a live outsider.

Whatever the result, The Investec Derby promises to be an umissable contest, but our two against the field, in no particular order, are:

Kingston Hill (12/1 with Bet365, Betvictor and Paddy Power)
Snow Hill (25/1 with Paddy Power and William Hill)

Good luck!