Beverley Racecourse has a very stiff uphill finish - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

Choose Excellency As Value Bet In Live Beverley Contest

Largely smaller fields than we normally get on a Saturday and for me, the race of most interest is the Silver Cup at Beverley, due off at 2.05pm. This is a 10f handicap for 3yos only. The weather forecast looks dry so this race should be run on ground the fast side of good.

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Pace

The draw shouldn’t have much of an impact here given the small field but there is every reason to think pace will still be a very important factor.

There are some fairly strong pace biases at Beverley over shorter trips and even at this 10f distance there is still a bias towards those ridden nearer the pace.

We have a reliable sample size here in smaller fields and the data shows that early leaders have a 24% win strike rate and 51.2% place percentage. That’s some way clear of the 14.04% win percentage and 36.09% place percentage for prominent racers and the figures for mid division and held up make for even worse reading. There is clearly a strong bias towards early pace over this course and distance.

Unless there is likely to be a strong early gallop in this race then those that race nearer the speed should certainly be marked up. The pace map will tell us more about this.

Pace Map

Here is the pace map for this race.

The two Mark Johnston runners are likely to dominate early in this, both tending to enjoy leading. It’s possible they could take each other on and set this up for something a bit more patiently ridden but given they are from the same stable you’d imagine team tactics will be agreed and they’ll perhaps dispute the lead at a reasonable pace with no other likely front runners in here.

The majority of the rest of the field tend to be patiently ridden. Life On The Rocks was prominent very early last time out but soon lost place and was in a distant last place after a few furlongs.

No Recollection is tactically versatile so his early position is probably most difficult to predict out of the whole field.

Jockey Course Record

Given tactics are likely to be so important in this race it’s worth taking a look at jockey performance at Beverley from the past five years.

The top jockey in terms of A/E and IV is Stefano Cherchi. He’s not the most experienced around here but he’s clearly adapted well to the course and he seems a good jockey booking for Farhan. The only jockey who has had fewer rides here is Tom Marquand but he has ridden a winner here before.

Ben Curtis has ridden more winners here than any of the other jockeys in the past five years. He’s closely followed by Paul Hanagan but that pair have clearly also had the most opportunities.

Paddy Mathers and P J Mcdonald have seemingly underperformed which could be a concern for Life On The Rocks and also the well fancied Barn Owl.

The Runners

Here’s a look at the seven runners, in early odds order.

Barn Owl

Looked like a return to further would suit on his penultimate start at Sandown so it was perhaps a little disappointing he could ‘only’ manage second place at Ripon last time out in a five runner race. In fairness the ground was probably softer than ideal on that occasion and he's worth another try at that distance.

He’s still lightly raced, has finished 2nd in both handicap starts to date and gave 5lbs and a short head to a runner now rated 85 in a novice race earlier this season meaning he looks well handicapped off 84 here but there is a suspicion this trip might be on the short side for him. First time cheekpieces go on which may sharpen him up but he’s probably not one to take a shortish price about.

Titian

William Haggas won this last year with the smart Ilaraab (also had the runner up two years ago) and he bids to repeat that feat with seasonal debutant Titian. He shed his maiden tag in September in a Newcastle novice and followed that up with a respectable third in a Doncaster nursery off a 1lb lower mark. That nursery form has worked out respectably enough so there is every chance he begins his 3yo campaign on a good mark but there is an issue.

Titian ran well on racecourse debut on soft ground and followed that up with a disappointing effort on fast ground at Goodwood, well beaten at 9/4. He won on the all weather and then ran well in his nursery race on good to soft. The evidence points to him being better on softer ground, just like his dam was. On faster ground here, off an absence, he's opposable.

Farhan

He's more exposed than many of these but he’s run to a fair level of form so far. He won last year at the fifth attempt, taking a 10f novice at Pontefract on soft ground like a horse with a future over staying trips. Given that effort he put in a very encouraging seasonal reappearance at Salisbury on good ground, going down by just a short head to No Recollection, who reopposes here 3lbs better off.

That run again suggested Farhan may be better over further, although he would have won on that day had he not made a mess of the start (missed the break by several lengths). A step up to 12f failed to bring about improvement next time at York though. He ran a fair race in 4th in a warm handicap, possibly finding the fastish ground slightly against him.

He missed the next 83 days but put in a good return at Sandown three weeks ago, finishing runner up back down at this trip. He showed a little more early speed that day, perhaps because he was running on the slowest ground he had encountered all season, and got within a neck of the winner. He’ll win a race before the season is out on testing ground over 10f or even over 12f but he is likely to find things happening too quickly here assuming the ground is faster than good.

Life On The Rocks

Richard Fahey has won this twice in the past five years and he’s solely represented by Life On The Rocks here. All three of his runs last year were at a mile, on fast ground, for Kevin Ryan. He ended the season with a 2nd, beaten less than a length, by Tribal Art, who won just this week off a mark of 82, making Life On The Rocks’ mark of 76 looks fairly lenient, especially as he looked like he’d improve as a 3yo over further throughout last season.

He didn’t reappear this year until two weeks ago, having moved stables in the interim, but once again ran well in defeat finishing 3rd off this mark. He was last of all after a couple of furlongs despite breaking well but flew home late. If he didn’t handle the track then that was an excellent run off a lay off. If he’s a bit quirky now and doesn’t give his all early on then he’s going to struggle around here. If he’s able to hold a handy position this time around he could run very well but there are a few unknowns.

March Law

The most lightly raced runner in the field and another that hasn’t run this season. Ben Curtis has ridden the winner of this race for the past two years and he’s booked for the ride. He was a good 2nd to Battleground in the Chesham Stakes last year at Royal Ascot, with that runner winning a Group 2 on his next start. March Law followed that up winning a soft ground novice at just 2/9, scrambling home by a nose in a two runner race.

He’s likely to be advantaged by the run of the race here but he’s obviously had an issue or two and the fact that his best form has come on soft ground is another concern. Maybe one to monitor in the betting, especially in relation to his stablemate.

No Recollection

Handicapped to finish ahead of Farhan on the bare form of their meeting earlier this season but given Farhan started very slowly that day that’s probably not the case. His form has tailed off since then so it’s probably no surprise that connections have had him gelded since his latest disappointment. Given he’s trained by Alan King, that decision may have also been made with a hurdling career in mind.

His early season handicap form would give him a fair chance here, he was 3rd to Mohaafeth in April, receiving just 6lbs from a runner that has subsequently rated 27lbs higher. His run style may or may not be an issue here. He led early when beating Farhan but he’s often been held up too. On his last two tries at this trip he has led and tracked the pace so there is a good chance he’s prominent early.

Mr Excellency

The field is completed by Mr Excellency, a second runner for Mark Johnston. He won his first two starts at this trip, making all in both, before perhaps finding softer ground against him at Glorious Goodwood. A 2lb rise for his most recent win certainly shouldn’t have been enough for him to be beat 23 lengths on his next start.

He’s still unbeaten at this trip on fast ground and his first win over this distance worked out pretty well. The runner up won on his next start, the 3rd met trouble in running and found a sedate gallop against him on his next start but still ran creditably and the 4th has finished 2nd since (this week). He’s 6lbs higher here which is fair and he proved that run was no fluke when following up next time, albeit in a very small field.

The Verdict

Barn Owl probably wants further, Titian and Farhan probably want softer, as may March Law. Two of those are also returning from layoffs. This suggests there might be a bit of value lurking lower down in this race, especially with a potential pace bias looking likely.

Life On The Rocks looks fairly treated and could/should improve on his latest outing. If he finds himself in last place after a couple of furlongs again though it will probably be curtains for him so he’s probably just one to watch, or to back in running if well placed after a few furlongs.

No Recollection isn’t out of this if bouncing back to form after a gelding operation but it’s possible he ends up being held up by choice and he does need to return to his earlier season form. He’s not ruled out but is risky.

MR EXCELLENCY also comes with some risk after his last run but it’s entirely possible that effort was solely down to the ground and his yard’s runners often have no problem bouncing back to form after a poor run. If leading he could get a big advantage here – you’d have to think the stable instructions will be for the two Johnston runners NOT to cut each other’s throats at the head of affairs early on. Assuming he doesn’t go off too hard he looks far too big a price as the outsider of the field.

It might be a slight concern that Ben Curtis would appear to have chosen the stablemate but it’s worth noting Connor Beasley is 3 from 7 when riding for Mark Johnston at Beverley. Curtis on the other hand is just 2 from 9.

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