Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Four Preview, Tips
The fourth day of five, and the last for which I will be previewing the action. Saturday's are for superstar punters and 'recreationals', in my opinion, and if you know you're not a superstar punter, well, you know... 😉
Parking the joy hoover and getting back to Friday's action, it doesn't get any easier. The very wet Wednesday, which turned the ground heavy, has been superseded by dry breezy days. These will suck much of the moisture from the turf leaving sticky claggy holding ground. In France, they have a 'holding' going description. Here, we call it soft but it is anybody's guess whether a horse will act on it. I'd very much like to see the introduction of a 'holding' going description. But don't be 'holding' your breath for that to happen.
Be all that as it may, we have race puzzles to solve, and we have that muddy fly in the ointment to keep aforethought, as we begin at...
1.50 Glorious Stakes (1m 4f, 4yo+, Group 3)
Eight declared for what will be a decent test of stamina in the expected conditions. With little science behind the theory, I tend to prefer horses racing close to the pace when the turf is gluey. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is more difficult for closers to accelerate, so that will play into these deliberations.
Keep in mind, too, that there are trends for Friday's Glorious Goodwood action here.
The clear form horse in the race is Godolphin's Frontiersman, runner up the last twice in Group 1 and Group 2 company. This then is a drop in class, but he's a quirky chap who races from the back of the field as a rule. He hung quite badly at both Epsom and Newmarket meaning Goodwood's undulations are hardly ideal. Moreover, William Buick's mount has never raced on slower than good to soft, and on that one occasion he was well beaten in a Group 3. Form pick he may be, but there are enough reasons to look elsewhere at the price.
Poet's Word won a handicap at this meeting last year over a furlong shorter, so trip and track should be fine. But that was on firm ground and in Class 3, this is soft and Group 3. He's improved since, finishing second in a Group 3 last time, but all his best form is on a sound surface (beaten five lengths both times on good to soft, though ran all right each time).
One which may lack the class of the above pair but will be suited to the conditions is Lord Yeats. He has progressed from a handicapper into a Pattern class horse this term, winning both starts, the most recent of which was a Listed contest where he beat the re-opposing Second Step. His recent improvement coincides with spins on soft ground and he is the lone pace angle in the race. 6/1 seems worth the risk.
Second Step is also interesting: he gets to run on (presumed at time of writing) soft ground for the first time since a debut neck second 20 runs back. He has been a consistent servant to connections and has been rated as high as 118 in the past. He is a deep closer which may or may not help his cause in the ground but 6/1 probably offers a degree of latitude in that regard.
The rest may not be quite good enough.
2.25 Thoroughbred Stakes (1m, 3yo, Group 3)
A sighter ahead of one of the big handicaps of the week over the same trip, one mile. Eleven largely unexposed three-year-olds line up and it requires an element of projection as to which may step forward the most. At least, unlike with the juvenile races, there is some form in the book.
The favourite is the French raider, TRAIS FLUORS, who represents the magnificent Andre Fabre. But while M. Fabre's overall record when hopping across to Blighty is impressive - 11 winners from 50 runners (22%) since 2009 - he has brought but a single horse to Goodwood in recent times, perhaps ever. That was the well fancied Reefscape in 2006, who could only finish seventh behind Yeats in the Goodwood Cup.
Still, it is an interesting entry, and Trais Fluors had a solid string of winning form - four career wins on the bounce - before beating all bar Thunder Snow in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat last time. That one had previously been third in the St James's Palace Stakes and second in the Irish 2000 Guineas, form which looks smart in the context of this Group 3.
And, whisper it, Vincent Cheminaud (Van-sonn Shem-ee-no) may have given the late, late runner too much to do that last day. He is the clear form choice in the race and will win if he handles the ground and VC gets the fractions right. Regarding soft ground, he's by Dansili out of a Manduro mare, which offers plenty of hope to his backers. [Non-runner]
Of the rest, Andrew Balding's Beat The Bank is three from four including an easy Listed success last time. He needs to find more - perfectly possible - and prove he acts in this mud.
Meanwhile, Mr Goodwood, Andrea Atzeni, legs up on Make Time, one of the few in the race with form on soft. The son of Makfi, out of a Lomitas mare, won his maiden by five lengths on his sole try on slow turf. That race has worked out all right, with ten subsequent winners from 48 starts, and he could be the one to benefit if the favourite falters. He looks fairly assured as an each way/placepot play at 4/1 with some of the, erm, lesser bookies. At least I hope he does...
3.00 Betfred Mile Handicap (1m, Class 2)
This big field mile handicap has one of the strongest draw biases in the calendar. Those drawn low and with a prominent run style have a huge edge on their higher drawn counterparts. Indeed, 13 of the last twenty winners were berthed in the inside five stalls, with another two drawn in stall seven. 75% of the winners from 35% of the draw. Moreover, 54 of the 80 place positions (67.5%) came from the bottom 50% of the draw.
The imponderable, to some degree, is the ground; but it remains safest to focus on those low and front rank. Interesting against that brief are Withernsea and Birchwood, both trained by Richard Fahey (won this in 2003 with Lady Bear, drawn five).
Withernsea will exit trap seven, successful in 2015 (So Beloved, later disqualified for a banned substance) and 2010 (Sea Lord). He's a prominent racer rather than right on the speed, and should be able to settle in behind Zhui Feng and the wide drawn pair of G K Chesterton and Masham Star. His soft ground record is 21871, the most recent win coming in a 15-runner handicap at Newbury. The '8' was over seven furlongs here, where he was staying on before running out of piste; and the '7' was when badly interfered with.
Only four pounds higher than that last win and off the same mark as when an excellent third in the International Handicap (27 runners) last weekend he has a lot going for him for a 20/1 chance (Victor).
Birchwood is more speculative, a fact that is accommodated in a quote of 25/1. To date he's race exclusively at up to seven furlongs meaning an immediate doubt about stamina. His pedigree offers only the faintest of hope. And yet... he was a Group 2 winner as a juvenile, has run consistently well on a soft surface, is drawn in stall two and has a prominent racing style. Jamie Spencer takes the reins and he is an excellent judge of pace: hopefully he'll keep this lad in a forward position and ride as though stamina is guaranteed. From there we'll see. As always, the price makes the play.
Zhui Feng has a lot in his favour. What is against him, however, is a rising mark - lines up off a career high rating - and a perception that he doesn't want it on the slow side. That, coupled to a quote of 12/1, means he's not for me this time.
The favourite is Blair House. He's a lightly raced son of Pivotal who has finished first and second in his two runs on good to soft. He's untried on softer but indications are that he will handle it. Stall nine is not insurmountable, though if adopting his usual midfield style, mucho lucko may be required for a clear passage. At 6/1, he's no more than a small saver option.
Henry Candy's Greenside, a five length winner of a soft ground handicap, has been very well backed. He may well be suited by the sodden lawns but he was racing off 76 that day and now competes off 23 pounds north. Though he's doubtless improved in the interim it remains possible that he outclassed his lower grade opposition rather than relished the underfoot.
Still, he seems to have conditions largely to suit, though the combination of his weight and draw (11) mean he's only fairly priced at 9/1, even allowing for the fact he should be able to get a handy sit.
I thought Arcanada was interesting until I saw his draw. He's got stall 21 and that may be too much to overcome. As a generally prominent racer, his jockey - Tom Dascombe - will have a fiendish task getting across near the front without using too much petrol. The alternative is to take back, sit and hope, which is not an especially attractive punting proposition; not for me at least. On the plus side, he likes soft ground and big fields, as he showed when fourth in last year's Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot; and his prep run was eye-catching. But 12/1 is a rubbish price with the draw.
I'm happy to take my chances with 25/1 Birchwood and, especially, 20/1 Withernsea.
3.35 King George Stakes (5f, Group 2)
A classy sprint though one where not all of the principles are sure to be suited by the give in the turf. The one who will, and the one to be on, is PROFITABLE. Clive Cox's sprinter was a Group 1 winner over five furlongs on soft last year, in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot; and he's twice run second so far this term, including in the same race on good to firm. Back on an easy surface, he'll relish conditions and has a class edge on the more exposed runners in this field. 3/1 is nap material.
There are some less exposed types, however, most notably Battaash. But that one's only unplaced effort in six spins over the minimum was when encountering soft ground (and a big field) in last year's Windsor Castle Stakes. The jury remains out on his effectiveness in the wet, in spite of some terrific efforts on quicker so far this term.
Likewise, the fast filly, Marsha, has yet to race on softer than good in eleven turf starts. She was a very close fifth, beaten less than a length, in this last year, but that was on good to firm. Nevertheless, she is quite a big price - 7/1 - if you're happy to roll the dice on the going concern.
Pick of the outsiders has to be Final Venture. Paul Midgley's flyer loves soft turf, has improved this season, and is drawn close to the rail in stall eleven. 20/1 is too big in a race where plenty are either unproven or probably won't enjoy conditions.
4.10 Nursery Handicap (6f, 2yo, Class 2)
This is filed under 'impossible', though the late Dandy Nicholls obviously didn't get the memo: he won it four times on the spin between 2006 and 2009. It might have been nice if they'd named it in his memory this year, his forays to the Glorious meeting rarely fruitless.
My lucky dart has fallen on Holy Tiber, twice a winner from three career starts and both times on soft ground. She is a handicap debutant for George Scott, whose record with 'cap first timers in the last two years is four-from-twelve. That's impressive - well above par with an IV of 3.3 and an A/E of 1.37 implying some value in the prices at which they're sent off. It's a micro sample of course but this ain't a race where there's much to go on. In the land of the blind and all that...
James Given runs Gift In Time, another having its first run in a handicap. Given's figures are also positive for both A/E and IV and this son of Society Rock was second on soft on his debut. A mark of 82 may underestimate his ability a smidge, notwithstanding that there are any number in opposition for which that comment applies.
The Richard Hannon's, father and son, have fared well, albeit from plenty of runners. Surprisingly, they're unrepresented this time. Two trainers who do saddle entries are Mick Channon and Mark Johnston. Although collectively one from 36 since 2003, they've hit the board on twelve further occasions, a 36% place strike rate. If their luck is to change this year it will be courtesy of one of Milton Road (Channon), Branscombe or Rufus King (both Johnston).
Milton Road is an experienced young man with eleven starts to his name already, the most recent of which was when thumped on soft/heavy at Sandown on Wednesday night. Branscombe was also whacked on soft last time which tempers enthusiasm, but stable mate, Rufus King, ran arguably his best race when second to the capable Cardsharp in the Brian Yeardley Two Year Old Trophy. He is two from three at six furlongs, including last time out, and also has fair form with Coventry winner, Rajasinghe.
Very trappy stuff and we'll still have one more leg of the placepot to go if we fluke through this!
4.40 Oak Tree Stakes (7f, fillies & mares, Group 3)
A seven furlong big field of fillies and mares, with the three-year-olds getting six pounds in weight for age from their elders. For whatever reason, perhaps coincidence, very low drawn lasses have fared way better than random: indeed those housed in stalls one and two have claimed eleven of the last 20 renewals for a level stakes profit of over 41 points at SP. Crikey. The place percentages back that up with those boxed in traps one to five having much the best of it.
12/1 chance Al Jazi had stall one last year and Frankie made the most of it for trainer, Francois Rohaut. The same team are back to defend their crown but, from stall six and on much slower ground, it will be a different test. I'm not inclined to support her chance.
Stall one this time belongs to another very interesting overseas raider, Wild Approach. This frau comes from the German stable of Dominik Moser. Moser is no mug: he's brought 13 horses to Britain in the last five years, two of them winning (33/1 and 14/1), and another two finishing second. This filly was second on soft last time in a mile Group 3 and acts on any ground. She races prominently and I'm more than happy to take a chance with her at 25/1.
Bletchley has stall two and, though her run style is more midfield, she has some decent form on good to soft. This will be the slowest she's encountered most likely, and she could conceivably improve for it.
It's a really tricky race to weigh up so the German dark horse will do for me.
5.15 Handicap (1m 3f, 3yo, Class 3)
I'm at Goodwood socially for this Friday card, and I'll be a few bottles of that very fine Goodwood Ale into proceedings by this point. Wagering then will have been undertaken early and lightly against another fiendish proposition for the nightcap. Fourteen three-year-olds line up with eleven furlongs to cover, and you'll know by now my discomfort with 3yo handicaps.
What is remarkable, to me anyway, is that five of the last six winners have returned 4/1 or shorter, in average fields of 13. So maybe it's not one to overthink.
Sir Michael Stoute has booked Ryan Moore for the Queen's Swiftsure in the trainer's bid for a third win in the race since 2011. The son of Dubawi was second on his debut on soft ground, but beaten a long way under similar conditions ten weeks ago. He'll likely prove better in time but there are reservations about whether he wants to make a print with his hooves.
Charlie Appleby runs two: Cross Step and unbeaten handicap debutant, Walton Street. The latter, a son of Cape Cross, was comfortably the best on his only run so far, in a Pontefract maiden. Since that race three weeks ago, just one horse has raced, and it won giving the form some substance. An opening mark of 84 probably understates Walton Street's ability but he will find this a very different examination from his first racecourse experience.
Cross Step, a Kitten's Joy gelding, found it hard to justify an opening peg of 85 in a Newbury handicap over a mile and a half. That was good to firm and this is soft: the same trainer has another son of Kitten's Joy, the classy Hawkbill, who has run his best races on similarly testing turf, so there is hope in this first try on the deep.
One that will definitely act in conditions, if he lines up, is Wednesday's heavy ground winner, Londinium. He was much the best in that similar handicap over a furlong further and, if not cream crackered, has an obvious chance of doubling up in this slightly weaker race under a six pound penalty.
I'm struggling to make a compelling case for anything especially, so if I'm lucky rather than good, Cross Step may improve for the easier surface and, hopefully, at a nice price.
Yes please, another bottle of Goodwood Ale - thanks!
As mentioned at the top of this post, it will be the last of the week from this digital quill. I've alluded as to why above the little asterisk north of this sentence...
I hope the previews have added some interest, and potentially profit, to your week's betting and I wish you all the luck if you're taking on the Saturday card. I will mostly be nursing a hangover, and also heading to the Cotswolds for a week's holiday with my family; but fear not, it will be business as usual at geegeez.co.uk with punting pointers aplenty wherever you're playing.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!