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Friday 25 September 2015

3:50, Newmarket, Saturday, 26

If ever a race was made for this column, the Cambridgeshire, which invariably features a maximum field of 35 runners thundering over 1 mile 1 furlong on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, is the race. Three favourites have won in the last 10 years, but winners at 40/1, 25/1, 16/1 and 14/1 (twice) in the same period provide plenty of cause for optimism.

Brendan Brackan (50/1) hasn’t won for over a year, but has consequently dropped 7lb in the weights and can race off the same handicap mark as when winning his last handicap, by 8½ lengths, at Galway two seasons ago. Ger Lyons’ 6-year-old showed definite signs of a revival when keeping on to finish fifth of 22, beaten 4¾ lengths, behind Hint Of A Tint in the Tote Irish Cambridgeshire, over a mile, at the Curragh last month. On that showing, an extra furlong won’t do his chances any harm and, while jockey Colin Keane has yet to ride a winner on this side of the Irish Sea, he otherwise has a healthy (24%) strike rate overall for the Co. Meath trainer.

Mistiroc (50/1) picked a good time to record a career-best effort, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Ayr nine days ago and makes the long journey south from East Renfrewshire with just a 4lb penalty to carry. Jim Goldie’s 4-year-old won his maiden at Hamilton last August over 1 mile 1 furlong on good to soft going so, while he probably needs to improve again to win a race as competitive as this, he’s feasibly weighted and has conditions in his favour.

Fire Fighting (40/1) hasn’t cut much ice in Listed and Pattern company of late, but races off the same mark as when third of 16, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Mount Logan at Goodwood in July on his last attempt in a handicap. He appears to be Mark Johnston’s second string on jockey bookings but, of course, he doesn’t know that and a stiff 1 mile 1 furlong on rain-softened ground should play to his strengths.

Of course, there are plenty with chances but, after a near miss with 50/1 chance Poyle Vinnie in the Ayr Gold Cup last Saturday, our three against the field this week are, in order of preference, Brendan Brackan (50/1), Mistiroc (50/1) and Fire Fighting (40/1). Good luck!

Thursday 24 September 2015

2.30 Newmarket, Friday, September 25

The Princes Royal EBF Nayef Stakes (2.30) at Newmarket on Friday is one of the most competitive races of the day and, although the last four winners were priced at 7/1, 11/4, 7/2 and 3/1, the previous incarnation of the race (at Ascot) produced winners at 20/1, 14/1, 12/1 and 10/1 since the turn of the century.

The one that immediately jumps off the page is Rae Guest’s twice-raced 3-year-old filly Goodyearforroses. The daughter of Azamour made a hugely promising start to her career at Leicester last October, when edging out subsequent Group winners Redstart and Star Of Seville over 7 furlongs. She wasn’t seen again until Newcastle in June, when finishing sixth of 11, beaten 8½ lengths, behind subsequent Darley Irish Oaks winner Covert Love in a Listed contest over 1 mile 2 furlongs.

She has a middle-distance pedigree so, taken a face value, that was a disappointing effort, but it’s conceivable that she simply needed more time to come to herself. In any case, she retains the potential to be very smart indeed and deserves another chance to confirm the favourable impression she created as a juvenile. She was entered in the Investec Oaks at Epsom in June so is, or at least was, held in high regard at home. Her 91-day absence is an obvious worry, but it may just be a question of paying to find out if she’s trained on as anticipated.

Selection: Newmarket 2.30 Goodyearforroses to win

Friday 18 September 2015

15:45, Ayr Gold Cup, Saturday 19

The Ayr Gold Cup, run over 6 furlongs, has produced just one winning favourite since 1980 and all bar four of the winners have started at double-figure odds, so it’s the perfect race for us.

Considering he was beaten a head in the Flying Childers Stakes, over 5 furlongs, at Doncaster last September on his penultimate start as a juvenile, Astrophysics (50/1) is in danger of becoming a forgotten horse, a fact that’s reflected by his ludicrously generous odds. Admittedly, he was turned over, at odds-on, in match on his final juvenile start and made no show in a 0-105 handicap at York on his seasonal reappearance in May, but it’s surely too soon to be writing him off completely. Rain-softened ground is something of an unknown, but it’s conceivable that he’s simply taken time to adapt to his new surroundings, having only joined Ann Duffield from David Elsworth in April and he’s worth a chance to confirm his juvenile promise.

Boom The Groom (33/1) is just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning a 0-105 contest, over 5 furlongs, at Lingfield in February and although three of his four career wins have come on synthetic surfaces, his turf form is not quite as dire as his odds suggest. He ran well off his current mark when third of eight, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Humidor over 5 furlongs at Epsom last time and, although he steps up to 6 furlongs on a more galloping track, he could go well, particularly if there’s any more rain in Ayrshire between now and Saturday afternoon.

Finally, Poyle Vinnie (33/1) did us a favour when winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton, on soft going, in July and, although beaten three times off revised marks since, he ran a little better at York last time and may appreciate the return to handicap company on a galloping track. He remains 8lb higher in the weights than at Hamilton, but such was his level of superiority on that occasion that he doesn’t appear impossibly handicapped if able to recapture the same level of form. He’s not ideally drawn in stall 4 to execute the front-running tactics that worked so well at Hamilton, but Minalisa finished second from stall 2 last year after racing prominently on the stands’ side, so he’s not without a chance.

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Selections: 3.45 Ayr Astrophysics (50/1), Boom The Groom (33/1), Poyle Vinnie (33/1)

Thursday 17 September 2015

15:05, Ayr, Friday September 18

The Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday and its two consolation races, the Ayr Silver Cup and the Ayr Bronze Cup, means that we have three 25-runner sprint handicaps to analyse this weekend so, frankly, we’re in our element! The Ayr Bronze Cup has only been in existence since 2009, but has produced just one winning favourite, Jack Dexter in 2013, and winners at 18/1, 14/1, 12/1 (twice) and 11/1.

Musley Bank trainer Richard Fahey admits that Supplicant (25/1) is something of an enigma, insofar as the former Mill Reef Stakes winner is apparently catching pigeons at home, but showing next to nothing on the racecourse. The Kyllachy colt is on a losing run of 15, but has tumbled down the handicap as a result and is now 8lb lower in the weights than when beaten a head by Spinatrix in a 0-105 contest at Ripon at the same time last year. It’s interesting that his owners, Cheveley Park Stud, are persevering with him and he’s undeniably well handicapped if he can rediscover some semblance of form.

Rodrigo De Torres (25/1) is with the ninth trainer of his career, but has rediscovered some form since joining Garry Moss in July and is another who could go well at rewarding odds. Not for the first time in his career, he failed to get home over a mile at Musselburgh last time but, while his recent revival has come over 7 furlongs, it wasn’t that long ago that he was winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup, over 6 furlongs, at Hamilton off a mark of 93. He races here off a mark of 84 so, with rain-softened ground no hindrance to his chance, he may well have been underestimated.

Selections: Ayr 3.05 Supplicant (25/1), Rodrigo De Torres (25/1)

Friday 11 September 2015

14:35, Doncaster, Saturday September 12

Another Saturday, another maximum field sprint handicap to mull over, this week the Ladbrokes Portland, run over 5 furlongs and 140 yards on the flat, wide expanses of Town Moor, Doncaster. Two favourites have won the Portland in the last ten years, but the other eight winners in that period were priced at 20/1 (three times), 16/1, 14/1 (twice) and 11/1 (twice), so it’s a race to which we look forward.

Right at the foot of the weights, Indescribable (33/1) has finished stone cold last on his two most recent starts, but has now run poorly on all six starts with cut in the ground and, back on a sound surface, doesn’t look impossibly handicapped. On his last start in a handicap on fast ground, he stayed on well to finish eighth of twenty-seven, beaten 4 lengths, in the Sprint Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Goodwood and is 3lb lower in the weights here. He’s done all his winning over 5 furlongs and has the services of Silvestre De Sousa, who has a 24% strike rate for the yard this season.

Gran Canaria Queen (25/1) is another who’s done all her winning on good, or faster, going so, having run respectably on soft ground, off a 1lb higher mark, at Ripon four weeks ago, she’s another who could stage a revival back on a sound surface. All her recent wins have come over 6 furlongs, but she’s won and been placed over 5 furlongs in the past, so this intermediate distance should suit her well enough.

Pipers Note (20/1) has already won three times this season, improving 9lb in the process and, while his recent efforts in handicaps suggest he might just be in the grip of the handicapper, his form figures over 5 furlongs read 010115. In any case, he’s still only 4lb higher in the weights than when winning over 6 furlongs at Ripon in April, so with underfoot conditions to suit it’s not difficult to imagine him being in the shake-up.

Selections: Indescribable (33/1), Grand Canaria Queen (25/1), Pipers Note (20/1)

Thursday 10 September 2015

4.40 Sandown, Friday, September 11

The Inkerman London Handicap (4.40) at Sandown on Friday is one of the most competitive races of the day and it’s interesting that Newmarket trainer Denis Quin, who’s yet to saddle a runner at the Esher track, has chosen it for his three-year-old Unnoticed. The son of top-class miler Observatory has failed to cut much ice on two recent visits to the July Course at Newmarket, but ran well on both starts at Beverley, including in this grade, in between and may be ready to record his first win on turf.

His third of six, beaten a nose and a neck, in a 0-85 contest at the East Riding course on his penultimate start suggested that he’d be more than capable of winning in the near future and, off a 1lb lower mark – not to mention Noel Garbutt’s 5lb claim – today could be his day. Win or lose, he’s undeniably well handicapped and, at a standout 33/1 with Coral, he’s too big a price to resist.

Selection: Sandown 4.40 Unnoticed (33/1 with Coral) to win

Thursday 3 September 2015

15:45 Haydock Sprint Cup, Saturday 5th September

The Haydock Sprint Cup, run over 6 furlongs, is the biggest flat race of the season at the Lancashire track and invariably features a maximum field. Three favourites have won the Group 1 contest in the last 10 years, but winners at 14/1 (twice), 12/1, 11/1 and 10/1 in the same period provide cause for optimism as far as this column is concerned.

Eastern Impact (25/1) doesn’t have much to find with the principals from a ratings perspective and his sole attempt in Group 1 company yielded a third place, beaten just 1½ lengths, in the July Cup at Newmarket, so it’s a mystery why he’s such a big price. He has winning form over 6 furlongs on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so should run his race whatever the weather on Merseyside between now and Saturday afternoon and comes into the race on the back of a win at Chester.

Waady (16/1) is another who fully deserves his place in the field and, although yet to win over 6 furlongs, has shown an explosive turn of foot to win his last two starts over the testing 5 furlongs at Sandown and the faster they go the better for him. He has 4¾ lengths to find with Adaay on their running at Newbury in May, but appears to have decent prospects of reversing the form.

Watchable (25/1) is becoming expensive to follow, but only finished half a length behind Gordon Lord Byron (8/1) in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month, but is available at three times the price. Trainer David O’Meara complicates matters by also declaring last year’s winner G Force (12/1), so if he opts for one or the other the hint may be worth taking.

Selections: Eastern Impact (25/1 with BetVictor, 888Sport and Betfair Sportsbook), Waady (16/1with Sky Bet, Paddy Power, 888Sport and 32Red) and Watchable (25/1 generally available).