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Thursday 30 June 2016

2:35 Sandown, Saturday July 2nd - Coral Charge

The Coral Charge, run over 5 furlongs at Sandown, hasn’t had a habit of throwing up big-priced winners in recent years, but soft going increases the advantage held by runners drawn low, so we’ve identified a couple that, granted a kindly stalls position, could go well at rewarding odds.

Officially, Duke Of Firenze (33/1) is one of the lowest rated runners in the field, but seems at least as good as ever, if not better, this season and fully deserves another crack at this level. The 7-year-old appears to have been rejuvenated by the transfer to David Griffiths in April, beating subsequent Wokingham Stakes runner-up Brando at York three starts ago and running creditably in defeat when third, off revised marks, in competitive handicaps at Epsom and Musselburgh. Obviously, he has plenty to find on official figures, but should be suited by an end-to-end gallop and has winning form on soft going, so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by any rain that falls in the South East.

Stepper Point (40/1) beat subsequent Nunthorpe Stakes winner Mecca’s Angel, on unfavourable terms, at the Curragh last summer, but has been woefully out of form since breaking a blood vessel at York on his next start. The Kyllachy gelding was found to be suffering from a heart fibrillation caused by a liver infection, which was successfully treated, but he has clearly taken some time to regain his confidence. It’s worth remembering that he easily won the Flying Five Stakes, also at the Curragh, the previous season off a mark of 113, so if he was anywhere near his peak he’d be more than a match for most of these.

Selections: Sandown 2.00, Duke Of Firenze (33/1 with William Hill), Stepper Point (40/1 generally available).

Tuesday 21 June 2016

4.35 Newcastle, Thursday, June 23

The Betfred “Home Of Goals Galore” Handicap (4.35) is an interesting contest as far as we’re concerned because just two of the runners, Can’t Change It and Mr Bossy Boots, have experience of the Tapeta surface and that was 18 months ago. In fact, they filled the first two places in a 0-80 handicap over 7 furlongs at Wolverhampton at the first meeting held on Tapeta, in August 2014.

On that occasion, Mr Bossy Boots won readily by three-quarters of a length and is 3lb better off at the weights, so must remain of interest despite the form being a while ago. His last win came in a 0-95 affair over 7 furlongs at Lingfield in April, off a 3lb lower mark, so while he failed to make much impression when stepped up in class at Ascot and Sandown the last twice, it’s hard to say that he’s impossibly handicapped. He probably needs to improve a little to win but, having run well on both attempts on Tapeta, that’s by no means out of the question and he must have a sporting chance.

Can’t Change It is in the form of his life, having recorded a career-best effort, by some way, when winning comfortably at Goodwood on his reappearance in May. He has gone up 8lb in the weights as a result, but is clearly thriving. In fact, granted his earlier form on Tapeta, he’ll probably be much too short to be considered ‘outsider’ material so, for that reason alone, he is passed over.

The other one that catches the eye is Free Code, who makes his debut Tapeta after failing to trouble the judge in four starts so far this season, but makes a quick reappearance after running at Redcar last Saturday. The Kodiac gelding made a promising start to the season when fourth of 12, beaten 3¾ lengths, behind Teruntum Star over a seemingly inadequate 6 furlongs at Newmarket in April and, although his subsequent form over 7 furlongs is nothing to shout about, he is starting to look well handicapped off a mark of 88. In fact, he’s1lb lower in the weights than when winning at Doncaster last summer, so would have an excellent chance if anywhere near his best.

Selections: Newcastle 4.35 Mr Bossy Boots, Free Code

Monday 13 June 2016

5:00, June 14th, Royal Ascot Stakes

The Royal Ascot Stakes, run over 2 miles 4 furlongs, has thrown up winners at 33/1 and 20/1 (twice) in the last 10 years and seems as good a race as any to throw our hat into the ring this week.

Mirsaale (20/1) won the Epsom Derby Trial as a 3-year-old and finished ninth in the Derby proper but, after a lengthy spell in the doldrums, has been reinvented as a stayer by Keith Dalgleish. The Sir Percy gelding returned to turf in a lowly 0-75 contest at Catterick in April, but drew further and further clear, until he was 20 lengths clear at one stage, before being heavily eased close home.

He stepped up in class and distance, off a 16lb higher mark, at Ripon on his penultimate start, but once again took up the running with half a mile to race and went clear to win unchallenged. He was beaten, but far from disgraced, over 1 mile 5 furlongs at Hamilton last time, but this marathon distance could conceivably bring about further improvement, especially with underfoot conditions in his favour.

Winning hurdler Chartbreaker (33/1) won twice, on very soft and heavy going, as a 3-year-old for Andreas Wohler, so has no questions to answer regarding distance or going and remains unexposed as a stayer on the Flat. Although a 5-year-old, he’s only had eight starts in total and just four on the Flat and, being by Shirocco – the sire of Annie Power – out of a Galileo mare, he’s another who could find some improvement on his debut for Chris Gordon. If cheekpieces have the desired effect, he could go well at rewarding odds from the bottom of the handicap.

Selections: Ascot 5.00 Mirsaale (20/1), Chartbreaker (33/1)

Thursday 9 June 2016

Scottish Sprint Cup Outsiders

The Scottish Sprint Cup, run over the sharp, flat five-furlong course at Musselburgh, has to be the race for us this weekend. The race, worth £100,000 in guaranteed prize money, is the highlight of the season at Musselburgh and invariably well contested. Furthermore, little or no draw bias exists on the five-furlong course and the gentle rise from over a furlong out to the winning post gives horses coming from behind an opportunity to make ground on those racing on, or close to, the pace.

The first one that takes the eye this week is Royal Birth (16/1), who finished a never-nearer sixth of 15, beaten 2¾ lengths, behind Harry Hurricane at York three weeks ago. Stuart Williams’ 5-year-old missed the start on that occasion, but kept on well inside the final furlong and, off a 2lb lower mark, can make his presence felt. It’s interesting that his only previous win on turf came over 5 furlongs at Bath, where the straight is on the rise all the way to the winning post, and he’s only 2lb higher in the weights than when winning in this grade at Lingfield in March.

Of the other apparent ‘rags’, it’s worth remembering that, although well into his dotage, Tangerine Trees (25/1) won the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in his heyday. Of course, he’s nowhere near as good these days, but he won a small 0-95 contest on his debut for Michael Appleby at Nottingham three weeks ago and may have been rejuvenated by his change of surroundings. His form in recent seasons suggests that the combination of a 6lb penalty and a step up in class will be enough to prevent him following up, but he doesn’t have that much improvement to find to figure and is one to keep on the right side.

Selections: Musselburgh Sat 11th 3.45 Royal Birth (16/1), Tangerine Trees (25/1)

Thursday 2 June 2016

3:45 Epsom Downs, Saturday June 4th

The Investec Derby (4.30) is obviously the feature race on Saturday’s card at Epsom but, as far as this column is concerned, the Investec Corporate Banking “Dash” (3.45), run over the fastest five furlongs in the world, has to be the race for us. The £100,000 handicap invariably attracts a maximum field of 20 runners and recent ‘surprise’ winners include Bertoliver (33/1) in 2010 and Stone Of Folca (50/1). Recent statistics suggest a middle to high draw is an advantage but, with this in mind, we’ve run a rule over this year’s contenders and come up with a couple of selections that we think could go well at rewarding odds.

Blithe Spirit (33/1) is clearly well suited to a very sharp track, having won three times over the minimum trip at Chester, so it’s something of a surprise that he’s yet to tackle Epsom. He was only beaten a neck and half a length in a similar race, on good to soft going, at Haydock last September, off a 1lb lower mark and should be spot after a couple of runs already this season. He should run his race whatever the weather in the South East and he’s not badly drawn at all in stall 14.

Humidor (33/1) is a fine old stager, who has ‘won’ two of his three starts over course and distance – one race was declared void – and finished ninth of 20, beaten 4¾ lengths, behind Desert Law in this race last year on the other. His finishing position last year doesn’t tell the whole story, because he was repeatedly denied a clear run so, while he’s 5lb higher in the weights this time, he could go well again. In fact, his last win came over course and distance, on heavy going, off a 3lb lower mark so, with George Wood taking off a useful 7lb, he looks reasonably treated, even if he is in the veteran stage. He, too, has a favourable draw in stall 11.

Selections: Epsom 3.45 Blithe Spirit (33/1), Humidor (33/1)