We open proceedings very early tonight with the first race at Wolverhampton in a contest that can, at best, be described as a very mixed bag. The trip, just short of six furlongs, means that a low draw is a must, which cuts out half of the field.
There’s only a couple of course winners and First Rebellion looks a likely threat to my selection. Two placed finishes in its last two outings saw the six year old go close and from a low draw it looks set to do well again. With the low draw a huge plus the current market price of 10/1 seems awfully generous.
This being said however I’m siding with joint bottom weight and current favourite Hazel Blue. The horse now sits at a mightily low weight and as it makes its debut for top trainer David O’Meara there’s no doubt it has a great chance. A win at Dundalk last year from one pound higher in the handicap shows it isn’t adverse to an artificial surface and I have no doubt that this new yard can squeak out more improvement from the four year old and I’d be mightily disappointed if it didn’t finish in the top three. With promising amateur Patrick Vaughan onboard and taking three pound of its back and coming out of stall one it has to have a fantastic chance.
Hazel Blue (E/W if 9/2+)
Our final selection from the midlands comes in the form of a big priced outsider in the last at Wolverhampton.
The selection is currently priced at around 25/1 and obviously with a price as big as this I have to admit it’s very speculative but of the thirteen declared runners seven have won here before. Trainer Michael Easterby may be a dual purpose trainer but his record over the past five years shows he has a higher strike rate with his all-weather runners than over any other discipline. At the age of eight it’s obvious that the horse is the shadow of its formal self but a fourth placed finish three starts back show it retains some level of ability. I know that it obviously has a tough challenge ahead but with a low draw an obvious advantage I’m taking a speculative punt.
Of the remainder the obvious threats come in the form of fellow course and distance winners Know Your Name and Manolito but two dark horses in the race catch my eye and could run better than their prices suggest. Innoko has done well here and trainer Tony Carroll has his yard in a bit of form and 25/1 looks ridiculously priced. The bottom weight Quadriga is also worth noting and and may do well for a trainer who has had a 20% strike rate over the past two weeks and is another that could go close.
Space War (E/W)
We make one trip over to Ireland for the final race on the card from Dundalk.
The one mile contest looks open and is a mix of likely improvers and more seasoned handicappers.
Four year old Political Policy has raced around the course more times than I’ve had hot dinners and with eleven top three finishes here before it clearly likes conditions but I fear its handicap mark maybe a tad too high to take this.
Another course and distance winner that could do well is the current market leader Hat Alnasar who is another horse that has done well around here and with a decent win last time out shows it has continued its previous good performances on the artificial surface. A six pound rise seems fair enough but I think this will be a much more trickier contest than it faced last time out and 7/2 probably makes the horse too short a betting prospect.
Marise is the one for me to hopefully end the night on a high. It won here over course and distance last time out and the handicapper has been mightily lenient with just a two pound rise for that success. At the age of three it is open to much more improvement and the fact that top Irish jockey Pat Smullen sticks with the horse is a big positive. The horse likes to come from off the pace and being drawn in stall three with two pace makers on the inside of it it should have the race run to suit. Trainer Michael Cunningham has only had two runners in the whole of the year and has had a winner. I know with so few runs you have to take that form with a pinch of salt but it still shows a 50% strike rate and is worth taking into consideration none the less.
The horse I fear the most is the Fran Berry ridden Great Wide Open who takes a much needed step up in trip and should relish the one mile distance after rattling home over seven on its sole all-weather start previously.
Marise (E/W if 9/2+)