We start todays TV action in Yorkshire and head up to York for a very open looking handicap.
This is probably one of the most open handicaps i’ve seen in a very long time with the top 13 in the betting only being separated by seven points ranging from 7/1 to 14/1 and that is an indication as to just how tricky this is going to be to decipher.
Starting with the ultra consistent top weight Louis The Pious who very rarely runs a poor race and will always gives its best but despite the weight allowance taken off the horse thanks to the booking of Shelley Birkett I still think it’s too high in the weights to trouble the protagonists.
The current favourite and course winner is Geoff Oldroyd’s Alfred Hutchinson who won nicely last time out. Any Oldroyd trained horse has to be respected at York but I fear that a drop back in trip isn’t too advantageous and despite what seems a very generous three pound rise in the weights is another horse that may find one or two too good today.
Another trainer that has to be noted at York is David O’Meara who saddles a whopping five of the runners here. We have already mentioned the chances of Louis The Pious but he sends a horse here who has the chance of winning a hat trick on the bounce with Al Khan, a horse that is clearly doing well this year but I think this may be a step too far in terms of competition.
The O’Meara trained horse I fear the most is course and distance winner Alejandro who has run some pretty nice races in defeat and on his day is more than capable of taking a race like this.
I am siding with a horse from the same yard but going with the oldest horse in the race Penitent. It’s easy to forget that this horse has won three group races and four listed races in its time and this will be its first handicap in many years. Obviously age isn’t on its side and it’d be naive of me to think it can return to its best form but anything similar to its best and this horse should be head and shoulders above the other fifteen runners. A lot is taken on trust but at a double figured price it has to be worth a shot and a chance is taken.
We stay in the north and head to Haydock for the first of three live group races we have today.
I don’t often discount runners all that easily but I would say this is going to be between just the tree runners. The only course and distance winner in the field is Talmada who finished a decent second behind Secret Gesture who now heads to The Coronation Cup. That form is decent enough but I do worry about its level of inconsistency considering it has only won once in seven outings.
This now leaves me with two fancied runners, Kleo who represents Luca Cumani and Queen Of Ice who comes from the inform William Haggas stable.
The latter is yet to run this year but shouldn’t be a black mark considering it has won well when making its season reappearance before. The big question however is just how fit will she be to put a decent field like this to the test.
Kleo ran well when finishing a close second behind Bragging on its seasonal reappearance and should strip much fitter for that run.
It is nail bitingly close between the two of them and I am really struggling to pick from the two.
Based solely on the form of their respective stable I am taking a chance on the horses fitness and siding with the Haggas runner Queen Of Ice
Queen Of Ice (WIN)
Heading back over to York for a listed rave over a much longer trip.
Elidor was very impressive when it won at Newmarket last time out and you couldn’t right off the chances of the Mick Channon horse all too quickly but unfortunately the horse seems quite inconsistent and rarely puts in consecutive good runs.
The race favourite is Clever Cookie and although it may be a tad boring I can’t see past it. The horse has a course and distance win to its name and has never been beaten when running at The Knavesmire. The horse may be seven years old but is pretty lightly raced considering. Peter Niven’s runner should have too much for this lot and is my idea of the winner.
Of the remaining runners Big Orange has the scope to vastly improve now at the age of four and Michael Bell has had a few winners recently and couldn’t be discounted readily but I fear the winner will just be too good.
One horse that I couldn’t overly put you off backing is nine year old Times Up, its current price of 16/1 seems ridiculously over priced considering it has placed in group races and has never finished out of the top four in five contests at York. As I sit here writing this the rain is falling in spates and if it gets into the ground its chances will be boosted massively and it is very feasible it could finish in the top three.
Clever Cookie (WIN)
Our second group race of the day sees us return to Haydock for The John Of Gaunt Stakes.
We currently have joint favourites in both Breton Rock and Cable Bay at around the 4/1 mark respectively. Of the two I could only realistically side with Breton Rock who has a course and distance win to its name and should strip markedly fitter for its seasonal reappearance. A step down in class will obviously be a help to the David Simcock five year old. The horse may need a bit of cut in the ground but shouldn’t be overly inconvenienced if it’s dry.
Emell and Baltic Knight also have course and distance wins to their names but in lesser contests than this and I couldn’t side with either of them.
David O’Meara is renowned for his horses over smaller trips and sends four year old That Is The Spirit here. The horse also has a course and distance win to its name but I think is likely to need serious rainfall.
Of the outsiders in the field I’m going to plump for another selection and have opted to go with number one on the race card Ansgar. The horse may be seven years old but holds wins at Group 3 and Group 2 level and finished a decent sixth in a Group 1 at Longchamp last time out. The horse may need the run but placed in a listed event at Naas on its seasonal reappearance last year and should do much better than its current 14/1 price suggests.
Breton Rock (E/W if 9/2+)
We make our first trip of the day to flat racing HQ, Newmarket to take in a three year old listed race.
Of the eight runners that line up I just can’t look past The Queen’s horse Peacock. Trainer Richard Hannon has had twenty winners in the last two weeks which totals a 24% strike rate. Clearly his yard is starting to hit form with the build up to The Derby, The Oaks and Royal Ascot not too far away. Peacock finished second last time out behind current short priced Derby favourite Golden Horn and finished a lot closer than most have done to Golden Horn. That form speaks volumes of the horses class and is by far the best form on offer here.
Brian Meehans Mustadeem reopposses again today but I can’t see the horse reversing that form. Of the remainder of the field you couldn’t ignore the Mike De Kock runner but again I think the best this horse can expect is second placed.
I know it isn’t adventurous but the favourite just shouldn’t be beaten.
The big cavalry charge of the day takes place just before three o’clock in the Spring Sprint. It’ll be a tough one to call but I’m hoping we can get a bit of success with the two selections I’m putting up.
The current race favourite is Red Baron who won well last time. It’s hard to discount this six year old and the rise in the weight from its last success isn’t monstrous. The only thing I can think of to sway me away is quite simply its price. Wether or not it will be sacrilege we will find out but in a race with so many runners I have to look for more value.
Other dangers in the race are the course and distance winning Bogart and Richard Fahey’s Lexi’s Hero. Both have course wins to their name but both are very inconsistent and that puts me off the likelihood that Lexi’s Hero can win two in a row. If Bogart returns to its best form then it should have a great chance but trying to time this horse is becoming a near impossible task.
Captain Dunne has been impressive in picking up two wins on the trot but I just feel the horse has had its time now and the ten year old surely can’t pick up another win here.
Mappin Time is a horse that I have followed throughout the winter and in its last race it did well to finish second but I hope that it can’t go one better here in a much more competitive race.
This now leads me on to my two picks. The first of which comes from Robert Cowell’s yard. The trainer is known for his prowess with sprinters and enters two into this race. The one I’ve sided with is the five year old Normal Equilibrium. I hope this horse doesn’t become the proverbial bridesmaid after two consecutive second placed finishes in its last two races. Both runs were in smaller fields but I think a stronger pace will certainly help the horse and jockey Freddie Tylicki has a great record on the horse.
My second selection hails from the lesser known stable of Neville Bycroft as course winner Willbeme looks to improve on its seasonal reappearance where it finished fifth in a similar contest here last time out. The horse is sure to come on for that run and a small drop in weight since then will no doubt help.
Normal Equilibrium (E/W)
Going back to the North West but sticking at the five furlong trip as we look to the listed Achilles Stakes.
I think this is a race that is very similar to my thoughts on the earlier race at two o’clock in the sense that it seems to be down to just the three runners. The three at the head of the betting should contain the race winner with not much else likely to trouble the main protagonists unless Canny Kool and Intibaah make some gigantic marked improvement.
Pretend has been rattling in the wins on the artificial surface but has the big question mark as to wether or not it can convert its winter form to summer time racing on turf. Although I think the horse has a small touch of class and represents powerhouse connections you have to question what it has beaten albeit doing it well enough I just don’t know how good its form really is. It will need to step up on its previous runs and there’s no saying it won’t do but I just think a more experienced turf runner may take this.
Out Do has done nothing wrong in winning its last two races and doing it well. The horse represents good connections and has a great chance, I wonder wether or not it can compete in listed company. Personally I think it is more than capable of winning a listed race or maybe even a Group 3 race if found the right target but I would rather go with a horse who has already proven itself at this level.
Two third placed finishes in group races (including a Group 1) last time out as well as a win in a Group 3 race and Music Master certainly has the best form on offer. A drop in class will be an obvious advantage and should strip fit for its last race at Newmarket. It’s interesting to note that the horse has never raced over the minimum five furlong trip before but I don’t think that will be a disadvantage especially in a smaller field like this. The five year old also has the same trainer as sprinting sensation Limato and should be the one to beat as the current race favourite.
Music Master (WIN)
Our final trip to Newmarket for a class two handicap over twelve furlongs. It seems pretty open and current favourite Penhill looks a worth runner to lead the market. A decent victory on its seasonal return is positive but a seven pound hike in the weights seems tough enough to overcome. That being said however it still has a great chance especially with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Of the remaining runners I think the two Mark Johnston runners have to be noted but I feel they have run their races last time and aren’t likely to put in as good a performance again here but they could certainly grab a place if some of the main protagonists slip up.
Majeed has been running very well on the all-weather and should be in the mix but I doubt how well it can transform its from to turf.
The two horses that can’t be discounted are Richard Fahey’s Modernism considering how good the form of the stable are at the moment with Fahey grabbing winners and places left right and centre.
James Tate’s entry Urban Castle was disqualified last time out when finishing first at Newmarket. With good course form it has to have a chance even if it is taking a marked step up in class.
Despite the significant rise in weight however I’m tentatively siding with the race favourite to rack up two consecutive wins.
Our last of what has been nine races shown live on terrestrial television and its our final group race.
I am going to make a very bold statement when I say that Limato has the potential to be the best English trained sprinter there has ever been. Obviously the horse is yet to tackle older horses but considering this race is against its fellow three year olds I can’t see why its winning streak doesn’t continue. The horse looked like it needed the run last time out and it still won very readily. Henry Candy’s three year old is a runner I think will be likely to not just win here but also go on to Royal Ascot and pick up a prize there as well.
Mattmu is a horse I like a lot but at 7/2 is way too short. If the horse was around the 5/1 mark or bigger then a decent each way bet may be worth it but I just cannot see it overturning the favourite.
The other horse worth mentioning is Adaay, William Haggas is starting to hit a bit of form and Adaay is very much an unknown quantity. A win last time out in a listed contest was decent enough but two third placed finishes behind Limato previously isn’t swaying me to believe it can overturn that form.
by Rory Paddock
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