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Thursday 25 September 2014

Betfred Cambridgeshire Preview

Agonisingly, ante post favourite Air Pilot, who was officially 14lb in well in under a 4lb penalty, failed to make the cut for the Betfred Cambridgeshire by one place when the final declarations were published on Thursday. Nevertheless, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and, with a maximum field of 35 runners and winners at 100/1, 40/1, 25/1, 16/1 and 14/1 in the last 10 years, the Cambridgeshire is a race made for us.

This year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, has attracted any number of horses capable of running well at generous odds but, as usual, we’ve highlighted two or three that took our eye.

Balty Boys (33/1) beat several higher-rated rivals when second to comfortable winner Captain Cat in the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock three weeks ago, but can race here off an unchanged handicap mark. He finished well on that occasion so, while all his previous efforts beyond a mile, except one, have been nothing to shout about, an extra furlong should be well within his compass. If it is, he’s only 3lb higher in the weights than when winning a valuable handicap on the July Course at Newmarket and should run his race whatever the weather in the East of England between now and Saturday.

Tenor (33/1) has been one of the success stories of the season, winning six times and rising 39lb in the handicap as a result. A 7lb penalty for winning the Listed Nigel & Elwes Fortune Stakes at Sandown ten days ago (a career-best effort) means that he’s now 29lb higher in the weights than when last winning a handicap, but only 8lb higher than when second, beaten a neck, in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Mile at Ascot last month. The son of Eclipse Stakes winner Oratorio probably needs to improve again if he’s to become the first horse since Cap Juluca, in 1995, to carry 9st 10lb to victory, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’s capable of doing so.

Dance And Dance (40/1) finished a neck behind Tenor (rec. 11lb) in a handicap on the Rowley Mile in May, but reopposes here on 27lb better terms, so simply cannot be ignored from a handicapping point-of-view. The Royal Applause gelding ran on well in the closing stages to finish sixth, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Educate in this race last year, despite being denied a clear run with two furlongs to run, so appears to have bright prospects off a 1lb lower mark this time around. He meets the winner on 7lb better terms and the third, Tres Coronas, on 8lb better terms, so the bookmakers may have underestimated his chance.

His best run this season came over the testing straight mile at Newcastle, where he finished second, beaten a short head, but was awarded the race in the stewards’ room after being bumped in the closing stages. He is just 3lb higher in the weights here, appears to act on just about any ground and has the services of Silvestre De Sousa, who has a 1-4 (25%) strike rate for Ed Vaughan, so he has plenty going for him.

In summary, our three against the field, in no particular order are:

Balty Boys (33/1 with Coral)
Tenor (33/1 with Coral)
Dance And Dance (40/1 generally).

Good luck!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap Preview

It’s not often that we have the chance of a midweek ‘tilt’, but the Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap (4.40) at Haydock on Thursday has been well supported, with 15 runners due to face the starter, so we’ve decided to risk a small proportion of our betting bank on a couple at fancy odds.

The first one that takes our eye is Headline News, trained in Newmarket by Rae Guest. The lightly-raced daughter of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celebre won over 1 mile 2 furlongs on soft going at Sandown last September, off a handicap mark of 75, but finished well when fourth, beaten 1¾ lengths, again over 1 mile 2 furlongs, on her reappearance at Windsor in July, off a handicap mark of 83, and is 2lb lower in the weights here. She won over the testing mile-and-a-half at Leicester as a 3-year-old, so her stamina for an extra quarter of a mile or so shouldn’t be an issue and, although she comes into the race on the back of two quieter runs, he trainer believes she is up to Listed class on her day.

If she is, stepping back up in distance on rain-softened ground could be just what she needs at this stage of her career and she could, potentially, make a mockery of a handicap mark of 81. It’s worth noting that Rae Guest has won with one of the two older horses he’s saddled at Haydock during the last five seasons and Headline News is the only ride of the afternoon for regular partner Chris Catlin. Indeed, Chris Catlin is also riding in the 6.10 at Wolverhampton, 73 miles to the south down the M6, so he’ll have to get his skates on to make it from one course to the other.

Another who could go well at a shade of odds is Highland Castle, also trained in Newmarket, but this time by David Elsworth. The Halling gelding returned to the yard after just two starts for Brian Meehan and it’s easy to forgive him finishing last of eleven, beaten 43 lengths, on his most recent start at Newmarket twelve days ago after being off the course since May. He won over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Newmarket last June off a 1lb higher mark and has run creditably in defeat off handicap marks in the nineties, including on soft going, on more than one occasion since, so looks well-handicapped if anywhere near his best.

Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ granted his recent form, but it’s likely to be reflected in his price and he can actually race off his lowest handicap mark since winning over course and distance as a 3-year-old. It’s too soon to be writing him off altogether and the fact that jockey Graham Lee is 1-3 for the yard is also quite encouraging.

So, in summary, our two against the field are, in order of preference, Headline News and Highland Castle. Good luck!