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Thursday 29 October 2015

4.20 Newmarket, Saturday, October 31

The TurfTV Handicap (4.20) at Newmarket on Saturday is less prestigious than the races we typically examine in this column, but larger fields on the Flat and going changes increase the likelihood of ‘surprise’ winners at this time of year, so it looks an ideal contest for us.

Popeswood appears to be a difficult horse to catch right, to which his career record of two wins from 23 starts bears testament, but both those wins came over 7 furlongs with cut in the ground and he’s well handicapped on the pick of his juvenile form. In fact, he’s 3lb lower in the weights than when winning, in this grade, at Goodwood last October, so would appear to have every chance if anywhere near his best. Of course, that’s a big “if”, because he’s not looked a readymade winner-in-waiting on recent starts, but he popped at Goodwood after a couple of indifferent efforts and could do so again.

Piceno is on a losing run of seventeen stretching back to a year ago last April, but is consequently just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning a 0-75 contest, over 7 furlongs on soft going, at Catterick and is another who’d have a squeak on the pick of his form. He’s been off the course since April, which is an obvious cause for concern, but he’d earlier run creditably in defeat over 7 furlongs at Catterick, including in a 0-90 contest, so it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he went well off a 1lb lower mark.

Robert Winston doesn’t have too many rides for David O’Meara, but has a very healthy 4-16 (25%) strike rate for the Nawton trainer over the last five seasons, rising to 3-7 (43%) on older horses for the yard in the same period. His booking for Zacynthus, who only joined O’Meara in July, is one reason that the 7-year-old is a must for our shortlist. The Iffraaj gelding was only beaten 1½ lengths in a 0-90 contest at Ayr on his penultimate start and, although beaten out of sight at York last time, has an obvious chance off a 1lb higher mark.

Selections: 4.20 Newmarket Popeswood, Piceno, Zacynthus

Friday 23 October 2015

2.35 Doncaster, Saturday, October 24

The 2% Commission Handicap (2.35) at Doncaster looks to have every chance of throwing up a ‘surprise’ winner, so we’ve cast an eye over a few less-obvious candidates for the £28,012.50 first prize money.

Course and distance winner Robot Boy looked set for another decent season when winning a  0-110 contest, off a handicap mark of 103, at Newbury back in April, but has failed to add to his winning tally in eight subsequent starts and finish stone cold last over 6 furlongs at York two weeks ago. Nevertheless, he’s undeniably well handicapped, well drawn and should appreciate dropping back to the minimum trip if anywhere near his best.

Desert Ace won three times during his 3-year-old season, but he’s another who’s paid for his success and is winless in nine subsequent starts. However, the handicap has dropped him 7lb since the start of the season, such that he’s 2lb lower in the weights than when winning at Goodwood at around this time last year. He seems versatile with regard to underfoot conditions and could provide a notable Saturday winner for Hayley Turner, who hangs up her riding boots at the end of the season.

Pearl Acclaim is another who’s dropped back close to his last winning mark, insofar as he’s just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning at Musselburgh in the summer. He probably doesn’t want any rain, but ran a little better than his finishing position suggests at Catterick a week ago and could pop up at a ‘silly’ price. Good luck!

Selections: Doncaster 2.35 Robot Boy, Desert Ace, Pearl Acclaim

Wednesday 21 October 2015

3.10 Doncaster, Friday, October 23

The Racing Post/SIS Betting Manager Handicap (3.10) at Doncaster on Friday, a 6-furlong contest featuring 22 runners, gives us something to work with and, as usual, we’ve highlighted a couple that we think could go well at rewarding odds.

Jamaica Bolt has failed to trouble the judge in five outings this term, but is consequently 1lb lower in the weights than when winning this race last year, on the prevailing good to soft going, so must be of interest once again. The Pivotal gelding is 3-31 on turf, which probably tells you all you need to know about, but is clearly capable enough on his day. Stall 1 is less than ideal, but he has everything lese in his favour and it would be unwise to right him off on the basis of an unfavourable track position alone.

Last year’s sixth, Mass Rally, is 14lb lower in the weights than last year and, consequently, 10lb better off for the 3½ lengths he finished behind Jamaica Bolt, which should be enough to reverse the form, particularly as he’s better drawn than his old rival, in stall 12, on this occasion. He’s on a losing run of 20, stretching back two seasons, so clearly comes with risks attached, but has been there or thereabouts on recent starts and certainly wouldn’t be winning out of turn.

Selections: Doncaster 3.10 Jamaica Bolt, Mass Rally

Friday 16 October 2015

3:45, Ascot, Saturday, 17th October

The Balmoral Handicap, nowadays run over the straight mile used for the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, has only been contested once in its current guise, but is the most valuable race of its kind in Europe and, as such, is fiercely competitive. As ever, we’ve run a rule over the 23-strong field and come up with a few that may have been overlooked by the bookmakers.

As usual, the bookmakers aren’t taking any chances, with just one horse, Rene Mathis, available at 33/1 and, even then, only in three places. But for the fact that Richard Fahey’s 5-year-old has run without distinction on all four starts at Ascot, I might have been tempted to include him for pure devilment, but anyway…

Down among the dead men, so to speak, Donncha (25/1) has run well on both starts at Ascot and is just 1lb higher in the weights than when third, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the Gigaset International Stakes over 7 furlongs in July, so must be of interest from a handicapping perspective. The Captain Marvellous colt won over an extended mile, on soft going, at Windsor at around this time last year and is entitled to improve for his run in the Cambridgeshire three weeks ago, so he has plenty going for him.

Balty Boys (20/1) is closely handicapped with Donncha on their running in the Gigaset International Stakes and, although 4lb higher in the weights, went on to win the Group 3 Superior Mile, on good to soft going, at Haydock next time. He was below par on his first attempt on Polytrack at Chelmsford three weeks ago but, while consistency is not necessarily his strong suit, he’s another who looks overpriced.

Professor (25/1) has yet to win beyond 7 furlongs, but has shaped on recent starts as if a mile is what he needs at this stage of his career and rain-softened ground shouldn’t hinder his chance. He’s 8lb better off for the 5 lengths he finished behind Buckstay in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup, over 7 furlongs, last time and, while that shouldn’t strictly be enough for him to turn the tables, an extra furlong might be enough to make the difference.

Here we go again, in search of untold wealth for a relatively small outlay, with our three against the field, in no particular order, Donncha (25/1 with Boylesports and William Hill), Balty Boys (20/1 with Sky Bet, Boylesports and Stan James) and Professor (25/1 generally available). Good luck!

Friday 9 October 2015

3:50 Newmarket, Saturday, October 10

We could hardly say that a 34-runner handicap, over 2 miles 2 furlongs, is an answer to our prayers, but the Cesarewitch Handicap does, at least, provide us with another opportunity for some wild speculation at fancy prices. Two favourites may have won the race in the last ten years, but they were accompanied by winners at 66/1 (twice), 50/1, 25/1, 16/1, 14/1 and 10/1 (twice), so we have no qualms about dabbling in the ‘wrong’ end of the market.

A little surprisingly, Sir Mark Prescott has yet to win a Cesarewitch, but attempts to set the record straight by saddling four runners this year. However, stable jockey Luke Morris has plumped for Moscato (25/1) and we see no reason to argue with him. The Hernando gelding has 7¼ lengths to find with Low Key on their running in the Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago, but is 4lb better off with that rival this time and should improve for that run, his first since May.

Wordiness (40/1) is 3-3 under Silvestre De Sousa, who once again takes the ride, so it would be folly to leave David Evans’ 7-year-old out of calculations. All four of his career wins on turf have come with “firm” in the going description, so connections will be doing a sun dance between now and Saturday afternoon, but the weather at Headquarters is set fair for the rest of the week, so his chance may improve day by day.

Bernard Llewellyn could surely have found Norab (50/1) an easier assignment on his first run for the yard (and his first since May), so the fact that he’s throwing the Galileo gelding in at the deep end may be a hint worth taking. Regular readers will remember that Jospeh Tuite pulled off a similar feat with 33/1 chance Litigant in the Betfred Ebor at York in August so, despite disappointing on his last two starts for Marco Botti, he’s another that you write off at your peril, especially with drying ground in his favour.

It’s probably possible to make a convincing case for at least 25 of the 34 runners but, for richer for poorer, our three against the field are, in no particular order, Moscato (25/1), Wordiness (40/1) and Norab (50/1). Good luck!

Thursday 8 October 2015

3.45 Newmarket, Friday, October 9

The Vision Old Rowley Cup (3.45) at Newmarket on Friday may not throw up any “Future Champions” but does, at least, allow us to have a crack at a 16-runner, 3-year-old handicap featuring several unexposed types.

The one we really like is Al, a Halling colt trained by Luca Cumani. He was far from disgraced when seventh of 18, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Polarisation on his first attempt over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York in August, but may be better judged on his 7-length defeat of Deep Blue Diamond over 1 mile 4 furlongs on the July Course at Newmarket the previous month. He remains 12lb higher in the weights, but his York form suggests he’s far from impossibly handicapped and he can resume winning ways.

Silvestre De Sousa has ridden three winners from eight rides for Luca Cumani during the last five seasons, so his booking can only be viewed as a positive. In fact, in the time it’s taken to write this article, Al has shortened from 14/1 to 12/1, so we’re increasingly confident that we’re barking up the right tree.

Selection: Newmarket 3.45 Al (12/1 with Boylesports, Sporting Bet, Bet Victor and Paddy Power) to win

Thursday 1 October 2015

3.45 Ascot, Saturday, October 3

The Totescoop6 Challenge Cup (3.45), run over 7 furlongs at Ascot, is the betting highlight of the Autumn Meeting at the Berkshire track. With a maximum field of 18 runners, it’s disappointing that just two are on offer at odds longer than 25/1 in the ante post market but, as ever, if you’re backing our selections, it’s worth having a look at what’s available on the betting exchanges, such as Betfair.

Jallota (20/1) remains 6lb higher in the weights than when winning at York in June, but has held his form well and is better off at the weights with recent conquerors Rene Mathis and Mr Win, so shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s hardly a prolific winner – to which his career record of two wins from 26 starts bears testament – but appears versatile with regard to underfoot conditions and again ran highly creditably in defeat when fourth of nine, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Hathal in the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury last time.

Oisin Murphy rode Intransigent (20/1) to win this race, off a 4lb lower mark, last year, but this time opts for Gabriel’s Lad (14/1), whom he rode for the first time when sixth of nine, beaten 3¼ lengths, Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury. Strictly speaking, Denis Coakley’s 6-year-old is only 1lb better off for the 1½ lengths he finished behind Jallota on that occasion, but was having just his second run back after more than a year off, so can be expected to strip fitter this time. He’s just 2lb higher in the weights than when convincingly winning the Victoria Cup, over course and distance, last season, so has an obvious chance if anywhere near his best.

Intransigent (20/1) is on a losing run of nine, but is consequently just 4lb higher in the weights than when beating old rival Empire Storm (33/1) by 1½ lengths in this race last year and, with Kieran Shoemark taking off 5lb, has fair prospects once again. The Trans Island gelding has won on good to soft, good and good to firm going, so shouldn’t be hindered by drying conditions in the South East and is well drawn, in stall 16, in his bid to repeat last year’s victory.

Selections: Ascot 3.45 Jallota (20/1 with Paddy Power), Gabriel’s Lad (14/1 with Boylesports, Sporting Bet and Bet Victor) and Intransigent (20/1 generally available)