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Elect For Presidential At Big Price In Doncaster Handicap

The 4.05 at Doncaster on Saturday afternoon isn’t being shown on terrestrial TV with Cheltenham hogging much of the limelight. But whilst jumps fans are guessing about race sharpness for many runners I’ll be getting stuck into a very interesting flat handicap!

In a change from much of the action in recent weeks this looks like it won’t be run in heavy ground. Phew! That’s not to say it will be an easy contest to figure out, there are still 16, largely in form runners, set to go to post.

Draw

This will be fairly short and sweet as Doncaster is a pretty fair track.

Doncaster Draw Data

Looking at 7f handicaps run on good to soft or soft ground all draws have a good chance and a fairly even record of both winning and placing. The PRB figures improve slightly as the draw gets higher but the best place strike rate of all the stalls is stall 1 (36.36%) so it’s impossible to narrow the field based on the draw here.

Pace

Is the comparative pace data just as fair as the draw data over Doncaster’s 7f on softish ground?

Doncaster 7f Pace Bias Data

There is more of a pace bias than draw bias. Front runners have performed best of all here, breaking even to level stakes across the selected races. Front runners contribute both the best win strike rate and place strike rate so the data is pretty strong. Win strike rates drop the further back in the field you are and the place strike rate data follows a similar trajectory, although being held up is slightly more favourable for running into a place than being mid division is.

The IV figures are pretty strong for front and prominent runners and pretty weak for those that race in mid division or the rear so there certainly seems to be an advantage the nearer the pace you are.

The pace of the individual race can be just as important, if not more important, so let’s check out the pace map for this race.

Doncaster 7f Handicap Pace Map

So possible contested pace here which could swing things in favour of those held up near the rear. The pace will be in the centre of the pack, which would suggest they’ll come up the middle of the course which should guarantee no strong draw bias.

Doncaster Trainers

Earlier this season at Newbury I highlighted some insightful trainer data ahead of Tempus winning a handicap there and looking at how trainers approach Doncaster handicaps will hopefully give us some clues here.

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Trainer Data For Doncaster Handicaps

There is some strong data based on handicap runs at Doncaster from the trainers with entries in this race. The major positives are for Roger Teal (Bear Force One), Roger Varian (Musicality), Roger Fell (Presidential), Andrew Balding (Grove Ferry) and Ian Williams (Ejtilaab).

The major negatives are Tim Easterby (True Blue Moon), Kevin Ryan (Queens Sargent), Michael Dods (Get Knotted), Richard Fahey (National League and Zap), David O’Meara (Arbalet and Firmanent) and also to a far lesser extent Ralph Beckett (Tomfre).

The Runners

Bear Force One

Still lightly raced and seemingly didn’t stay in the Cambridgeshire last time out. He’s otherwise responded well to the application of cheekpieces this season. The previous couple of races had worked out okay and could he get the run of the race here. Did win on good to soft three starts ago but probably wouldn’t want it any softer. Should run well if the ground isn’t bad and trainer Roger Teal is very profitable to follow here in handicaps.

Tomfre

Inconsistent this season but came good on heavy ground last time out at Leicester, winning by two lengths. The handicapper hasn’t got carried away with that victory only raising him 2lbs but he doesn’t appeal strongly as the type to follow up, for all it’s a possibility.

Firmanent

Ran fairly well in a good race last time out at his beloved York but he looks handicapped to the hilt on current form and is unlikely to better his York form here.

Musicality

Lightly raced and represents Roger Varian who does well in handicaps here. He was slightly below form here over half a furlong shorter at the St Leger meeting but had previously won on soft ground, for all it was just a six runner handicap over 6f and perhaps a 7lb rise for that has found him out. Has a chance but worth taking on with question marks over the handicap mark and the distance.

Grove Ferry

Returned from a short break in August in good form. He was 5th at Sandown behind two next time out winners (did best of those held up) and followed that up with two good efforts at Ascot. The ground looks fine and the drop back in trip looks a positive as his effort has seemingly flattened out towards the end of each race recently.

He's up 3lbs for his latest effort which makes life harder but Andrew Balding does well in handicaps here and if the drop in trip does indeed bring about further improvement he is entitled to go very close.

Queens Sargent

Has improved again this season but form seems to have tailed of in the last couple of races without obvious excuses so it looks more a case of having gone off the boil than being handicapped out of this, for all it’s difficult to argue he’s particularly well handicapped anyway.

Fortamour

Won a decent race last time out at Ascot over a furlong shorter but has won over this distance on the all weather. He’s only up 2lbs for that win and drops in grade so isn’t badly handicapped and he’s run well with cut in the ground this season. His last run at this distance at York has worked out well with the winner going on to land a big pot at Ascot and many of those who ran well have run well in defeat again since. Considering he has been within at least two lengths of the winner in his last eight runs at 6f or 7f this consistent runner appears likely to go well again.

Arbalet

On a losing streak of 22 races and is often overbet after running well in defeat. He was three quarters of a length behind Fortamour at York and is now 6lbs better off so he’s well treated on that form but he’s much better on faster surfaces and wouldn’t be one to back with any confidence for win purposes anyway.

Ejtilaab

He's taken advantage of some slowly run races this season and would most likely not be seen to best effect in a well run race having been well enough beaten off a 1lb lower mark at Ascot in a big field two starts ago. Unproven on softer than good so unlikely to trouble the judge in this contest.

Get Knotted

Tends to run his best races at York and he’s not the force of old. He’d have a chance on a going day with conditions in his favour but he’s not one to put a lot of faith in at the moment.

Breanski

Had no chance behind Raaeq last time at Ascot and difficult to say if that horse franked the form or let it down on Saturday in the Balmoral Handicap, finishing 5th off a 6lb higher mark. Breanksi did finish best of the rest though to record his seventh 2nd or 3rd place finish in his last nine runs. He tends to run well here with two wins from five starts (four starts at this distance) and he beat Presidential (re opposes here) by a quarter of a length in receipt of 1lb in his last course win just over a year ago. Breanski is just 1lb above that winning mark now and is another who looks likely to run very well, for all he isn’t the easiest to win with.

Presidential

Another who goes well at Doncaster, his career form figures here read 143521. He won here over course and distance in June on similar ground to this off a 1lb higher mark and the next two runs of each of the next five runners home produced form figures of 2122224335 so that was a pretty solid race even if only one of the protagonists came out and won shortly after.

He's not completely consistent generally but he is consistent here. His worst form figure came on his run on the fastest ground he has encountered at this course and even finishing 5th in that race off a 1lb higher mark was far from a disgrace as that race worked out particularly well. With everything seemingly in his favour he’s a strong candidate for the shortlist representing a trainer with a very good record in handicaps here.

Alemaratalyoum

Generally at his best when the mud is flying, he’s been difficult to catch right this season and is very difficult to make a case for based on his last couple of runs. First time blinkers are another question mark and although they could spark a revival in form, it seems more likely they’ll just make him underperform further as the sire’s strike rate with horses in this headgear combination is half what it is across all races.

Zap

Difficult to win with, this horse is now on a losing run that dates back over two years. He has been very consistent this season, and has finished 2nd on his last three starts, but this is a step up in class and a much tougher race than those contests. He was 4 lengths behind Presidential here earlier in the season and is only 3lbs better off so he has work to do.

True Blue Moon

He's had an okay season, picking up a win on his penultima start off a 3lb lower mark. He’s generally run better on faster ground this season but he was a close up 4th at Haydock three starts ago and the 1st, 3rd and 6th have all won since and the 2nd filled that runner up spot again on his next start so he wouldn’t be out of it on that form, for all he is 3lbs higher here. His latest run was less promising and he’s probably up against it in this company off this mark but not a hopeless cause.

National League

This is one I gave a good write up for at the St Leger meeting at a big price in what looked like it would be a hot 3yo handicap. He was 3rd that day and better than the bare result, not only because he found trouble in running but also because the ground would have been plenty fast enough that day. What is most disappointing is that race has failed to produce a top 2 finish from nine subsequent runs.

After a below par follow up on ground that should have suited, connections reached for the visor (retained here) and it seemed to help as he ran on into 3rd from a compromising position against two rivals that were up with the pace at Musselburgh. That run against a pace bias was arguably a career best and he’s now down to a mark he won a nursery off last season. He really seems to be crying out for another furlong now though. He’ll probably find a couple too good here but would be of huge interest if finding a mile handicap on soft ground before the season finishes.

Verdict

A race where no winner would be a shock result and many have a very good chance of placing at the very least. Musicality will be on plenty of shortlists but I’m going to go with a longlist of:

Bear Force One
Grove Ferry
Fortamour
Breanski
Presidential
National League

The first and last names on that list aren’t going to make my shortlist. Bear Force One is certainly decent value at around 16/1 but I’m hopeful Ejtilaab will compete for the lead. Plus winter ground, even winter ground that’s not terrible, might compromise his chance. National League should run on well late in the race but I’m not convinced he’s currently well enough handicapped to win at this trip.

So the most solid quartet should be Grove Ferry, Fortamour, Breanski and Presidential. The most compromised, should Bear Force One and Ejtilaab not go a  good gallop here, is likely to be Grove Ferry who is dropping back in trip. He’s also drawn very low, and therefore furthest from the pace, which isn’t ideal. He’s therefore passed over for win purposes, although he should run very well.

Breanski is really solid and will run his usual race but he’s been beaten fair and square all season and is a runner would strongly appeal as a place only bet or one to consider for forecasts and tricasts.

So that leaves Fortamour and Presidential. Fortamour has more room to progress and comes here off the back of a very good run so doesn’t really have too many questions to answer. His good runs in softer ground did come over 6f though and this sort of ground over 7f will be a slightly new test for him. Plus in stall 14 he’s drawn a little further from the likely pace than is ideal.

Presidential on the other hand has thrown in plenty of poor runs recently (well beaten in three of his last five starts) but he’s yet to fail to give his running at this course and was a fair bit better than the bare result when not beaten too far at Newmarket last time out. The recent form of both Fortamour and Presidential is very much built into their respective prices and Presidential looks the better value bet and a good each way bet at an early 18/1. The fact that Roger Fell not only has a very good handicap record here but has also saddled two winners, three places and close 4th from his last eight runners at the time of writing just sweetens the pot a little further.

I’ll also be interested in covering the shortlist of four horses in various forecasts and tricasts. Backing four runners that are likely to be nearer the rear than the front early on is perhaps not the best strategy given the pace data highlighted earlier so confidence and stakes will be kept pretty low but hopefully Bear Force One and Ejtilaab will produce a contested pace which would make things look a lot rosier for those that will be held up.

**EDIT** It looked very difficult to make up pace on the straight course at Doncaster on Friday but they didn't have any big fields like this so it should be a little easier to come from slightly further back than it was in some of the smaller fields on Friday. Presidential has often raced more in mid division than right at the back of the field so he should still be able to get involved assuming he breaks on terms.

10 Minute Preview: Cheltenham, Friday 23rd October

In this very quick (11 minute) video, I highlight a couple of horses I'm interested in at Cheltenham's Showcase meeting this afternoon. Both are proven in conditions and have a good chance to outrun their odds. Both are easy to find using Geegeez Gold's Instant Expert tool.

See what you think...

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Check that out here

 

King Set To Be Crowned In Balmoral Handicap

The complexion of this race may have been slightly different had the Challenge Cup not been abandoned a couple of weeks back with several of the main contenders here having been set to contest that race. It certainly looks a cracking contest and hopefully a race where we can find a few strong pointers.

Draw

The straight course draw bias at Ascot tends to play its part in many races but the bias can change from meeting to meeting or even race to race so there are rarely any guarantees.

Ascot Mile Draw Bias

High draws have generally been favoured on the straight course this season but that may not be the case here. The ground is likely to be soft on Saturday and mile races on ground ranging from good to soft all the way to heavy have tended to favour those drawn middle to low.

The win data doesn’t tell us a lot in this sample but the place data suggests a middle draw can be strongly favoured with almost twice as many places from middle draws compared to low draws and 50% more placed horses from middle compared to high draws. The PRB figures seem to back up what the place data tells us too with low draw PRB the worst at 0.46, high drawn PRB is next best at 0.5 and middle draw PRB is 0.54.

There is a logical explanation for the above data. As previously mentioned the draw bias can vary at Ascot. When it favours the far side the higher drawn horses will generally struggle. When it favours the near side the lower drawn horses will struggle. Either way the middle draws nearly always have a pretty fair chance so of course they tend to do well.

At this particular meeting the ground nearest to the stands’ side is railed off and the stalls are positioned on the far side of the course. So compared to a standard meeting at Ascot the higher drawn horses actually race in what is normally the middle of the track and the lower drawn runners are positioned where they’d normally be.

The effect of this in recent years has been that the jockeys have tended to want to stick towards the far side rail. Last year’s first two home were drawn 21 and 20 but that doesn’t tell the whole story – they ended up on the far rail and looked to win in spite of their draws. The runners the previous year also headed towards the far rail and stall 8 was responsible for the winner but it’s also worth noting that five of the highest nine drawn runners were amongst the first seven finishers. In 2017 they largely came down the middle and although the winner came from stall 3, he actually finished nearer the stands’ side than any other runner. The next four finishers that year were drawn 18, 17, 15 and 23.

So what the above tells you, that draw data doesn’t necessarily do, is that if they elect to go far side as they have done for the past two years, the high draws are probably slightly disadvantaged but still well capable. If they go up the middle of the course then high draws may well have the advantage. Now we don’t know before the start of the race where they are likely to go so all in all, the safer bets will probably be in the middle.

Pace

Looking at a similar sample of data as we did for the draw, it looks very much as though we should lean towards those who are likely to be held up.

Ascot Mile Pace Bias

Only one winner has made all in these conditions since 2009 and that was Musaddas in 2015. He proved very well handicapped on the day (won another handicap two starts later) and the fact that only three front runners have placed, producing a place strike rate of 11.54% suggests only extremely well handicapped front runners should be considered.

The place strike rate gets progressively better the further back in the field you are and extreme hold up tactics seem to work well over a mile in these conditions with an almost 100% improvement in place strike rate compared to all other run styles. An IV of 1.44 is also much stronger than all other pace types and there have been more held up winners than all other run styles combined. So unlike the slightly inconclusive draw stats we had, we have some very conclusive pace data here.

Balmoral Handicap Pace Map

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There is unlikely to be a frantic pace to this race with only one likely front runner in the field so a degree of caution should be applied in regards to following the above data that suggests you want to be at the very back of the field. The data is still very strong though so you may well want to be no further forward than mid division on this occasion.

The Jockeys

I’ve seen some interesting jockey stats about which jockeys are worth following at Ascot on different types of ground and they seem worth exploring here with very testing ground likely.

Ascot Jockeys In Soft Ground

The above data shows the jockeys in this race that have previously rode at least once on ground that is between good to soft and heavy in an Ascot handicap before, sorted by IV. This data is more useful ahead of Champions Day as a whole rather than just this race but it does give a good guide as to which which jockeys might be worth a couple of extra pounds advantage.

Considering the lack of data for some riders, the major positives seem to be Nicola Currie (Graignes), William Buick (Blue Mist), Ben Curtis (Kynren), Jamie Spencer (Hortzadar), Jim Crowley (Raaeq), Hollie Doyle (Solid Stone), Frankie Dettori (Alternative Fact) and Oisin Murphy (Bell Rock). It’s worth noting that Nicola Currie’s wins have come courtesy of her association with Raising Sand, a soft ground Ascot specialist who is ridden here by Saffie Osbourne, so a slight pinch of salt must be taken with her figures.

The major negatives appear to be Stevie Donohue (Raakib Alhawa), Andrea Atzeni (Prince Eiji) and Tom Queally (Ropey Guest).

The Runners

Raaeq

He took his form to a new level last time out with an easy win here over 7f on similar ground to this. That was his first run on a soft surface and he seemed to improve for it. He runs with a 6lb penalty which leaves him 5lbs well in still. He’s only had five starts, has never finished out of the first 2 and looks the obvious ‘group horse in a handicap’.

He seems to be the sole pace angle in the race which could suit him but it’s going to be a lot harder dominating a 20+ runner field over a mile than an eight runner 7f race.

Ascot 7f Pace Bias

The above image shows how well front runners do in small fields here in softish ground. Compare that to the first image in the pace section of this article which shows the record of front runners and you see very different figures. He’ll probably need to be at least a Group 2 performer to win this from the front and although he looked to improve for the ground last time out, he also probably improved for the drop back to 7f, a distance at which he is unbeaten. No surprise if he wins but judgement call is to oppose at the price.

Tempus

Course and distance winner who will enjoy conditions. Seemingly had no excuses last time out when well drawn in the Cambridgeshire when running with plenty of credit in 6th (only 0.25 lengths away from 3rd). He maybe would have preferred softer ground that day but it would be difficult to argue he didn’t stay. He’s 2lb higher here and there is still a nagging doubt about him never really having beaten much (beat fourteen runners in two wins this season and none of them have subsequently hit the frame in any race). Even last time out he still finished worst of the well drawn form horses, albeit not beaten that far. Looks certain to run pretty well but not sure he’s well enough handicapped anymore to win a race as deep as this.

King Ottokar

One I quite fancied for the abandoned Challenge Cup but I had two slight doubts. The first was the drop back to 7f, which may have actually suited but it was a risk for a horse that had previously run so well at 10f. The other doubt was the trainer form with Charlie Fellowes’ horses not running that well at the time but he’s had five wins and three places from his last thirteen runners so that’s no longer a concern - in fact it's a positive.

He was a big eyecatcher last time out at Doncaster, making up ground effortlessly 3f out before running into the back of horses. He found less than seemed likely when getting clear which probably tempted connections to drop him back in trip but the ground was on the fast side then and it could have been just as likely that the ground compromised his finishing effort, not the trip. Both his wins have come in soft ground and so has all his best form.

The subsequent form of his last run isn’t great but remarkably none of those subsequent runs from the opposition came in similar conditions with most running on soft ground since. If you look back to Royal Ascot 2019, the last time King Ottokar ran to form on soft ground, he was just a neck behind Fox Chairman. That horse quickly developed into a 110+ rated horse so King Ottokar certainly should be well handicapped here off 100. The only doubt this time around is stall 22 as this could be major disadvantage if they all go far side. It wasn’t a barrier to success last year though and the going stick readings are quicker on the stands’ side which gives some hope they may come middle to stands' side.

Keats

This listed winner from two weeks ago runs under a 6lbs penalty making his mark 107. That would put a lot of people off but when a horse is trained by Aidan O’Brien and it runs in an Ascot handicap people take notice. His runners make a 7.0 LSP in Ascot handicaps since 2009 so that respect is warranted. All three of those winners came at Royal Ascot though over the years and none were rated higher than 104 so this would be some performance to win and Keats has only ever won on good ground. He looks one of the easier well fancied horses to oppose.

Njord

Another Irish challenger and a much more interesting one. He’s been a big improver going up 41lbs in the handicap over the past two seasons, often running well in big field handicaps. His record on ground with the word ‘soft’ in the going description during that time is 1231125 and that latest 5th was when meeting trouble in running off a 2lb higher mark when still beaten less than 2 lengths. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th from that race have all placed since so it wasn’t a bad race. He was last seen when 4th on good ground in a 9f listed race. He was 1.5 lengths behind Keats that day giving that rival 5lbs and he now receives 2lbs so it would be a slight shock if Keats could confirm that form. Keats is drawn 21 and Njord is drawn 4 so a stands’ side draw advantage seems to be the only thing that could swing things in Keats’ favour.

Given his consistent profile and liking for conditions he looks a fair each way shout and should run very well if a low draw isn’t an inconvenience.

Raising Sand

He was my fancy in the abandoned Challenge Cup but I’m slightly more lukewarm about his chances here. He loves soft ground and Ascot plus Saffie Osbourne is a useful 7lbs taken off his back but I’ve always thought he was a bit better over 7f than a mile. His two mile wins at Ascot have come off marks of 89 and 92 in smaller fields than this whereas his two 7f wins here have come off 97 and 103 in fields of 15 and 23.

He ran well over course and distance in the Hunt Cup this season from a poor draw but was ‘only’ 6th in this two years ago off 102 in similar ground and that sort of finish may be most likely again this time around.

River Nymph

He won comfortably here two starts ago and followed that up with another easy success when beating two next time out winners at Newbury. He was well fancied for the Challenge Cup that was abandoned and should still be well handicapped despite going up 11lbs for his latest win. He ran well over Lingfield’s 6f earlier this season and although well handicapped that day (18lbs lower) and looking like he wanted further it does still cast some doubt over his ability to get a mile.

The sire’s runners tend to get worse the further they go and this isn’t really the kind of ground you want to be testing your stamina in so he’s much easier to oppose here than he was over 7f, although he’s respected based on his achievements this season. Stall 14 gives the jockey some options at least.

Bell Rock

Finished 3rd in the Cambridgeshire, a quarter of a length ahead of Tempus. That run was a career best but he was well drawn that day, has seemingly improved for trips beyond a mile on his last two starts and is unproven on soft ground. There is also a doubt mark over the first time cheekpieces. Bell Rock is by Kingman who has a 17.67% strike rate with his progeny. That drops to just 12.82% when cheekpieces are applied which isn’t the worst record but is hardly a ringing endorsement either. Too many question marks.

Blue Mist

He's generally been expensive to follow and although he won a big pot here in July, that was over 7f in a race where only one of the first fourteen finishers has won since. He doesn’t convince over a mile and William Buick, who rides well here on soft, will need to get some improvement from this horse to reach the frame.

Orbaan

He has some decent form to his name with a 7th at York in August potentially a career best with the 5th and 6th winning handicaps since. He’s been behind Tempus twice this season though without real excuses and although a 6lb swing in the weights should get him closer it might not be enough to get 3 lengths closer. He should run creditably but in all probability he’ll finish just outside the places. He can win in slightly calmer waters.

Kynren

Was amongst the favourites for the Challenge Cup but a run at 6f at York last week looked a mistake with him finishing well beaten. No surprise to see him bounce back from that at a track where he has run plenty of good races but this trip seems to stretch him a bit – he’s finished 5th, 5th and 6th over course and distance on softish ground and those first two runs were off lower marks. He’ll need a career best to take this, although he’s nicely drawn in 13.

Alternative Fact

Frankie Dettori is an interesting booking, he’s finished 2nd and 3rd on this horse in two runs and is clearly booked when a big run is expected. The last time they paired up was here in the Silver Hunt Cup when just 1.75 lengths behind Sir Busker, who has since rated 15lbs higher. Alternative Fact has gone up 7lbs himself since then though having run three excellent races at Haydock, where he often gets his required ground. His last run at York when 6th of 20 deserves marking up as he was drawn very wide and ended up with too much to do.

He doesn’t scream brilliantly handicapped but the course and the ground are in his favour, as is the jockey booking. Stall 16 isn’t the end of the world, even if they go far side, and he’s one at a price that could easily run into the places and looks nailed on to give his running.

Best Of The Rest

It's slightly surprising to see Solid Stone priced up at 20/1 given he’s normally overbet (started favourite in eight of his thirteen runs including five of his last six). He hasn’t encountered this sort of ground since his 2yo days though and has presumably been kept away from it on purpose. He’d have a chance if handling conditions.

Greenside will handle the ground and does well here but looks better at 7f these days. Prince Eiji has run well on both starts here and handles the ground but he ran a shocker last time out and Atzeni doesn’t have a good record here in soft ground. Ropey Guest will like the ground and has Ascot form but he looks better at 7f and he’d have had a better chance had the Challenge Cup gone ahead.

Jamie Spencer could potentially get a tune out of Hortzadar but he looks handicapped to the hilt now and hasn’t run well in two starts at Ascot. Graignes has some smart French form in Group 1 races but if he was capable of winning this off  104 you’d have expected him to run better in similar conditions last time out in a Group 3.

Verdict

This perhaps isn’t quite as difficult a puzzle as it first seems with some of the main protagonists not likely to be seen to best effect over a mile on soft ground. Other simply don’t look well handicapped anymore.

The most interesting trio may well by King Ottokar, Njord and Alternative Fact. Tempus and to a slightly lesser extent Raising Sand should run well also but neither are fancied for win purposes.

Njord seems to enjoy the hustle and bustle of these kinds of races and is still reasonably handicapped. He seems most interesting at the prices of those drawn low. Meanwhile Alternative Fact is perhaps the ‘safe each way’ given he has everything in his favour and he’s not drawn far from the middle. At around 12/1 (well backed in the past 24 hours) with as many as 6 places on offer he’s worth a bet.

But as far as likely winners go King Ottokar seems to have an awful lot in his favour. He loves soft ground, he has run well here before, his trainer is in excellent form, he’s run well in a handicap on his last start and has been dropped 2lbs since then and he’s completely unexposed as a miler still. If there is one question mark it’s his very high draw but by the time the three reserves have come out he’ll effectively be racing from stall 19. If a high draw was to be an advantage he’d look an extremely good bet but we won’t know that until it’s too late. He’s shortening all the time and 8/1 in a big field like this might still seem short but he’s a very interesting runner and I’m willing to risk the draw. It might be worth backing him win only as around 8/5 to finish in the top 5 or 6 might not look great after a couple of furlongs if they all go far side.

Going For Gold In The Cesarewitch

The big handicap this weekend has to be the Cesarewitch. It’s going to be a real test this year on soft ground but who is going to come out on top in this cavalry charge?

Draw

The Cesarewitch draw is much talked about and the general consensus is a low draw is best but how strong a draw bias is there over this marathon trip?

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

It can be a common misconception that just because a high draw is a negative, that a low draw must be better than a middle draw. Looking at the above stats there have been almost twice as many wins from middle draws compared to low draws with the place figures neck and neck between the two. High draws though compare miserably with just a solitary win and on average high draws are producing less than one place per race which means all but the very well handicapped high drawn runners can possibly be ignored, even for a place.

The A/E and IV figures favour middle draws much more so than low draws but the PRB can barely be separated between low and middle draws. So in terms of chances of winning or placing there probably isn’t much between a low draw and a middle draw but it seems clear the bookies overreact to those drawn low and offer better value on those coming from the middle stalls.

Over the years this race has been run on a variety of going conditions, will softer ground amplify the draw bias or negate it?

Cesarewitch Soft Draw Bias

Looking at races on soft or good to soft, we have far less data so we should tread with caution slightly, but what we seem to be seeing here is a slightly stronger focus on low draws compared to middle. The PRB figures give us the most data and low draw PRB goes from 0.54 to 0.57 on softer ground, whilst middle drawn PRB drops from 0.53 to 0.52. High drawn PRB also decreases from 0.43 to 0.41. So the data is very similar and it’s possible the going doesn’t make any difference but if softer ground does affect the draw bias it makes a lower draw more important rather than less important.

In such a big field plenty of runners fall into the category of low, middle and high and it can be of benefit to find a cut off point for where a good draw becomes a bad draw.

Cesarewitch Stall Bias

Looking at the individual draw figures, sorted by PRB3, on all but fast ground, gives us some interesting figures. Stalls 1-10 fill ten of the best eleven results with only stall 19 crashing the party.

It’s worth noting that stall 27 has a 30% place strike rate but the only other stall that is 20 or higher to manage even a 15% place strike rate is stall 22 (20%). So given that twelve of the fourteen best place strike rates belong to horses drawn 19 or lower that seems a good cut off point for where a good draw starts to become a bad draw. Five of the best six place strike rates remarkably belong to horses drawn in bottom six stalls so away from fast ground a very low draw is clearly of benefit to each way punters.

Pace

Front runners have an advantage at most distances in horse racing but generally speaking the further you go, the less of an advantage it becomes.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

It’s a common theme in horse racing that those ridden nearer the pace will offer better value and out and out front runners have a good strike rate here with two winners from just eighteen runs. As horses are given more to do here over this trip they produce more places but from more runners. So just because more placed horses are held up than any other run style, that doesn’t mean they are advantaged. They certainly aren’t disadvantaged either though with only prominent racers having a better each way strike rate.

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The going can affect pace bias so let’s have a quick look at the same data on ground that is good to soft or softer.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias On Softer Ground

We have less data here so win percentages seem less relevant but there is a decent amount of place data on offer and it looks as though front runners are only advantaged on faster ground - their record in softer conditions isn't good. The majority of placed horses are coming from nearer the back but there isn’t a massive difference between the place percentages whether you are prominent, mid division or held up. What is noteworthy though is the huge IV of those coming from mid division so that does look the ideal race position on this kind of ground.

In terms of this race, with so many runners the pace map is rather large.

Cesarewitch Pace Map

There is guaranteed pace in here from Mukha Magic and potentially another 5 or 6 who could easily try to force the pace or dispute it – this should be run at a good gallop and stamina is likely to be well tested. Those who are settled somewhere around mid division are likely to be seen to best effect.

Draw and Pace Combination

One of the best visuals on Geegeez Gold for me is the draw/pace heat maps. They give such a good snapshot of where you might want to be placed depending on your draw.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Showing data for PRB on course and distance races run on good or softer, this gives a strong indication that low drawn horses that don’t lead are well served. If you are drawn in the middle racing prominently can be advantageous and extremes of rides suit those that are drawn much wider.

Jumps Experience

You often hear that you need a jumps trainer/horse for this kind of test so let’s see if that’s actually the case.

The last two winners of this race were saddled by Willie Mullins so both had of course previously run over hurdles. In 2015 Grumeti won for Alan King and the previous year Big Easy was the winner for Phillip Hobbs. That’s four of the last six winners having previously jumped a hurdle.

In 2017 the 2nd and 3rd were hurdlers and in 2016 the 5th and 6th were jumpers so it does seem that the proven stamina of those that have national hunt experience comes in handy.

The Runners

Coltrane

Was impressive in the Melrose last time and has been saved for this since but there has only been one 3yo winner of this race this century and he’s as yet unproven over further than 14f. Add stall 34 to the mix and he is going to have to improve plenty for this step up in trip to figure. That’s possible but the draw makes it easy to put a line through him.

Great White Shark

She was a late plunge in this race last year (11/1 into 7/1) but seemed to run a bit flat, finishing 10th. She’s now 3lb lower this time and her latest flat effort, when a close 7th to Princess Zoe at Galway when better than the bare result, makes her a leading contender. Stall 20 is just about okay but she doesn’t always translate her Galway form elsewhere and needs to step up massively on last year’s effort. No surprise to see her go well but it’s not guaranteed and that’s not really reflected in the price.

Leoncavallo

Form figures of 211 since joining David Pipe – he’s clearly found the key to this one. He’s up 8lbs for an impressive win last time out on good to soft but that form has been let down a few times and not only does he have stall 29 to contend with, he’s only won once from seven attempts on soft ground and that was when winning by a nose at odds of 4/6. He’s proven over this far both as a flat horse and a jumps horse but is a little risky on this ground.

Not So Sleepy

Clearly laid out for this with just one run since March which was an easy victory over just 12f at Pontefract in a 4 runner handicap. He’s 2lbs well in under a penalty and goes very well in soft ground. He’s got experience over hurdles and was a good 4th in this last year under similar conditions. Stall 4 looks great and there is an awful lot to like about this horse. He’s likely to be somewhere between mid division and prominent which will be fine. The only nagging doubt is he’s 4lbs higher than when beaten over 6 lengths in this 12 months ago. That was arguably a deeper renewal though so no surprise if he at least places once again.

Just Hubert

He can be difficult to catch right (fairly well beaten on four of his six starts this term) but he’s well suited by a massive test of stamina, as was demonstrated when he won the Goodwood Stakes this summer over 2f further. Most of his best efforts have come on faster ground but many of his poorer runs on softer ground have been followed up with a poor run on a faster surface so it wasn’t necessarily the ground that held him back on those occasions. He won on good to soft as a juvenile and did run well at Chester on soft ground last year. A quick look at the Profiler tool for the sire’s offspring suggests soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and it will certainly help bring out his stamina. Stall 17 is fine.

Just Hubert Sire Ground Stats

Rock Eagle

Hasn’t taken much racing but the result of that is he’s still unexposed at the age of 5. He’s a winner here and shaped as though he might stay further when staying on well over 14f at Salisbury last time out but he’s never encountered ground softer than good and has stamina to prove so whilst he has potential he’s a very risky proposition.

Lightly Squeeze

**Didn’t get in**

First reserve at the time of writing and will only get a run if there is a non runner before 1pm on Friday. This comment will be left in even if he doesn’t make the cut  - it will make a nice ‘what if?’!

Lightly Squeeze seems to have an absolutely ideal profile here. He’s been progressive over hurdles since joining Harry Fry - his hurdle rating has risen from 108 to 137. His last run over hurdles was when falling at the last, in the lead, in the Betfair Hurdle. He’s had just the one flat run since then and that was a very interesting run indeed. He drifted from 3/1 to 5/1 before the off (suggesting this was a prep or the run would be needed) but he ran really well. He moved smoothly into contention and was disputing the lead a furlong out before tiring slightly into 3rd. The winner has won again since and the 4th has won both starts since so that was clearly decent form.

The 14f of that race was the furthest he has gone on the flat but his sire (Poet’s Voice) has a 100% place record with progeny over this trip on the flat and he’s also won over a furlong further over hurdles. All his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and to top it all off he’s drawn in stall 1.

He would have to run from 3lbs out of the handicap but he was due to go up 2lbs for his recent run anyway so is effectively only 1lb wrong.

What a shame it will be if he misses the cut by one place!

Mondain

He's officially the best in here with his 4lb penalty still leaving him 3lbs well in. He’s pretty much proven at the trip having won at 17.5f last time out at Ayr. In fact his record at 2m or further reads 1121 whereas his 14f record reads 3255589442 so stamina definitely appears his forte. It looks as though he’s been ridden with a little more restraint in recent starts (as opposed to front running) which is probably a good thing given front runners seem to have struggled in his race on softer ground and stall 19 is fine but there is a slight question mark over the ground, he seems to have run his best races on good or good to soft ground (beaten 5+ lengths in three starts on soft). He’s also been running in much weaker contests than this recently so there has to be a doubt about how well handicapped he is for this. He has a definite chance if okay on the ground though.

Best of the Rest

Couer De Lion would have been very interesting on this ground but he’s been drawn in stall 35 and doesn’t have too many secrets from the handicapper so that’s him ruled out. Dalton Highway is quite interesting on some of his form with Great White Shark and he’ll enjoy the ground but stall 27 makes his task even harder. Diocletian will like the ground and shapes as though he may get further but he’s run relatively poorly in all four starts over 2m or further so he can’t be backed with any confidence for all he’d be capable of running very well if he did stay.

True Destiny loves having his stamina tested and runs well in good staying handicaps but he’s difficult to win with and the ground has probably gone against him. Cleonte is well drawn and fairly handicapped but has been in poor form on his last three runs.

Perhaps most interesting of the rest is Gold Arch who could offer some value at a very big price. He’s not the easiest ride and can be awkward under pressure but he’s had a more consistent profile this season for William Knight, finishing in the first four in all five starts. On his first run at 2m he had to be hard ridden half a mile from home and he stayed on well into 2nd. It was a similar story next time out over the same trip at Ripon, a course that wouldn’t have suited his running style. On that occasion he ran on into a never nearer 4th. He then ran over 16.5f at Wolverhampton on his latest start and once again stayed on late behind two rivals who were more forwardly ridden. He made up a lot of ground again late that day to finish 3rd (True Destiny who is a shorter price here was just a short head in front) and although it could be argued that he’s better on all weather than turf (very possibly true) he’s yet to have his stamina fully tested on turf and may well enjoy the softer ground.

Verdict

Obviously this is a wide open race and it’s more a case of finding a few runners who have been underestimated by the bookies than looking for the most likely winner. Those at the head of the market look too skinny for a variety of reasons and there is definitely value to be found elsewhere.

With Lightly Squeeze not getting a run the shortlist is going to be:

Not So Sleepy
Just Hubert
Mondain
Gold Arch

Not So Sleepy is perhaps the most solid of the of the quartet having run well in this last year. He’s well drawn, stays the trip and comes here in form and fresh. It’s a concern that he’s 4lbs higher this time around but perhaps being a fresher horse this year will make the difference. He’s a solid each way at 12/1, especially with as many as 8 places on offer, but the suspicion has to be he’ll find a couple too good.

Just Hubert still looks fairly handicapped and whilst the ground is a slight concern he’ll absolutely adore this stamina test. There is a bit more risk involved compared to backing Not So Sleepy but he’s as big as 18/1 so he could be slightly more rewarding too.

Similar sentiments apply to Mondain. He’s technically well handicapped here and seems well suited to a real stamina test but he hasn’t really finished amongst well handicapped horses this season so could find this too competitive. There is also a small worry about the ground conditions suiting, for all he is proven on good to soft.

Now Gold Arch is riskier than the other three but at 50/1 (including with SkyBet who are offering 8 places) he looks the value play here. He can be a difficult ride, he needs reminders, riding along early and often carries his head high. However the further he goes, the stronger he gets and this long straight and extra distance could well be the making of him. He’s been a consistent horse this season in a visor so should be a decent each way bet despite not having yet registered a win on turf. It’s just a shame they don’t run the Cesarewitch at Wolverhampton as he’d be a near certainty there!

Previous Winners Of Interest In Challenge Cup

The big handicap this weekend is the Challenge Cup at Ascot and with ‘just’ 18 runners set to go to post it may turn out to be an easier puzzle than the usual big field Ascot handicaps.

The ground is going to be a huge factor with somewhere in the region of 20-30mm of rain potentially falling on Friday and Saturday. It takes a lot of rainfall to make the straight course at Ascot heavy but it might not be far off that come race time on Saturday.

Before we look at each runner’s form and ability to handle underfoot conditions let’s first look at the draw and pace set up for the race.

Draw

Ascot 7f draw bias

All metrics point towards high being favoured over low, although it’s worth noting that there isn’t a huge difference in PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) across the board.

Looking just at handicaps run on soft or heavy, there is far less data but it seems to swing things back in favour of lower draws.

Soft ground draw bias at Ascot

What’s particularly interesting here is the PRB figures. There isn’t much between middle and high here but the low draw PRB is 0.57 which is a huge leap from the middle to high PRB.

It’s worth noting that the reason there are only 18 runners here is the field sizes are limited at this meeting because half of the course is railed off to save the ground for Champions Day. This possibly renders much of the above draw data irrelevant.

Three of the last four renewals of this race have been run on soft ground and the draws of the first five finishers in those races are as follows:

2019 – 17, 9, 6, 5, 13
2018 – 17, 18, 15, 11, 16
2016 – 16, 8, 11, 10, 12

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Now that’s a fairly small sample but it’s the most relevant draw data we have for this individual race. It seems significant that in those races eleven of the top fifteen finishers were drawn in double figure stalls and no runner from the lowest four stalls managed to finish in the top five at all.

It’s by no means certain that this trend will continue but it does seem as though a higher draw will be preferable to a lower draw at this meeting on soft.

Pace

Pace is not only important in telling us what race position the winner is most likely to come from, but where the pace is drawn can have an strong impact on a possible draw advantage.

Challenge Cup Pace Map

There is a possible contested speed here with front runners drawn in stalls 5, 7 and 13. Every runner in the field should have speed to track so there certainly shouldn’t be a micro advantage based on where the pace is.

Ascot is generally thought of as a course for hold up horses but they’re not necessarily majorly advantaged at this trip on softer ground.

Soft ground pace advantage

No run style has produced more wins or placed runners than being held up with cut in the ground but that’s from more runners. Prominent runners actually seem to offer the best value (IV 1.33) with front runners performing worst of all.

The Place % data is very similar across the board though so we should get a very fair track and the pace at which this race is run will likely determine where the winner comes from more than anything else. With three front runners in the field this could set up for something more patiently ridden.

The Runners

Kynren

Last year’s winner carries 4lbs more this time around. He ran poorly in his first two starts this season but benefitted from a wind op last time when a creditable 5th in the Ayr Gold Cup off this mark, over a trip short of his best. Three of his four wins have come on soft ground and he’s only been beaten by one runner in two course and distance runs (beat 40 rivals home in those two races) so everything looks in place for a big run and William Carver claims 5lbs. He’s drawn very low in stall 3 though.

River Nymph

Progressive 3yo who has won his last two starts comfortably, rising 17lbs in the process. The 2nd and 3rd from his last win have both come out and won since so he’s fully deserving of his latest 11lb rise and he is also proven in soft ground. This course and distance winner is entitled to run extremely well if tracking the pace from stall 12 although it’s worth noting his trainer Clive Cox was quoted as being glad the ground had dried a little last time out (on soft) so if it was to go heavy it might not be ideal.

Raising Sand

A regular fixture in this race, he was below par last year but won this two years ago and was 3rd to smart pair Accidental Agent and Lord Glitters three years ago. He’ll be ideally suited by conditions here but it’s just a question of how well handicapped he is. He won here last year off a 4lb lower mark and was 1st home on the far side in the Royal Hunt Cup off a 1lb higher mark on his only start this season. He was 8th overall in that race and the first 4 home all won at least once since so that’s strong form considering his draw was so bad on that occasion. He’s fared better this time around in stall 11.

Saffie Osbourne is a very interesting jockey booking. She’ll be claiming 7lbs and has a 28% strike rate in the past fortnight. Her claim could definitely be the difference between a good run in defeat and victory.

Blue Mist

Finally came good here in July after many near misses but that race worked out poorly with no horse from the first seven home winning since and he’s now 5lbs higher. He once again found next to nothing back here a month ago and he’s not one to completely rely upon.

King Ottakar

One that might be overlooked here. He’s largely struggled for the past 12 months but there were definite signs of life back in handicap company last time out at Doncaster over a mile He was cruising 2f out, making up ground with ease, until he ran into the back of the leading group and lost his momentum. He finished well enough but the way he travelled and his finishing effort perhaps suggested he’d be best suited by this drop in trip. That run came on ground that was faster than ideal so he deserves to be marked up again. He’s won twice on soft and is down 2lbs so has a leading chance if the trip isn’t too sharp. Stable form not great though.

Shelir

Has benefitted from being ridden more forward in his recent starts having often caught the eye from off the pace (including here). Should find conditions in his favour but doesn’t look that well handicapped anymore and may find dominating this field difficult.

Greenside

Runner up in this last year off a 7lbs lower mark and although he’s been running well again this season he’s 3lbs worse off with Kynren ignoring jockey claims. He’s likely to run fairly well and a place isn’t out of the question but a win seems very unlikely.

Admirality

Often the bridesmaid, he’s finished 2nd on his last four racecourse appearances. He’s up another 3lbs and although still competitively handicapped he has often seemed better on faster ground.

Best Of The Rest

Orbaan should enjoy the ground and isn’t badly handicapped but whether or not he wants 7f in this tough a race is open to debate.

Blown By Wind will pop up at a big price at some point and he’s probably at his best in testing ground but he’s often slowly away. If he breaks on terms he’s one to consider as an in-running back.

Young Fire is interesting back up in trip on this ground. He’s won two of his last three starts at 7f on soft ground but he possibly goes best at Haydock.

What If The Ground Turns Heavy?

Eight of these runners have never encountered heavy ground before and seven have run on it only once so form on very testing ground isn’t easy to find. Blown By Wind and Ropey Guest both have a 100% record of at least placing on heavy but both have only run once on it.

Instant Expert on Geegeez Gold is an excellent tool to get huge amounts of data for each runner and it can be just as enlightening to look at sires in Instant Expert, especially in extremes of going.

Heavy Ground Sire Stats Instant Expert

Garswood, sire of complete outsider Gabrial The Wire, has an excellent record in heavy ground as a sire as does Dubawi, who gave us Greenside. The sires of Kimifive, Hey Jonesy and Jack’s Point also produce plenty of mudlarks but that trio of runners may struggle to see 7f out on very deep ground.

Verdict

Perhaps the most interesting runner here is River Nymph, who is the one who is potentially still a fair bit ahead of his mark despite going up plenty for his last two wins. If the ground is no worse than soft he looks sure to run very well.

King Ottakar is very tempting on this ground having caught the eye last time and he is certainly overpriced at 10/1 at the time of writing. It looks as though the drop to 7f should suit but it’s a risk, and the trainer form is worrying.

So slightly unoriginal but it may pay to stick with Kynren and Raising Sand. They’ve won this for the last two years between them and were both better than the bare form of their more recent runs. They may not be amazingly handicapped but both have talented claimers on board which could make all the difference. The draw is possibly a concern for Kynren so unless previous races tell us low is better than high then Raising Sand has to be the most solid each way selection at 7/1. Raising Sand has won here for the past four years and can hopefully make it five in a row.

Stroke Of Luc Required In The 2020 Cambridgeshire Handicap

The Cambridgeshire is undoubtedly the big betting race of the day on Saturday and it’s certainly the most difficult puzzle of the weekend for us punters.

When approaching a race like this it’s not uncommon to come out of it with a shortlist of at least ten runners unless we can find a way to narrow down the field. Often in races like this the draw is the easiest way to rule chunks of the field out . In 2016 it looked as though high draws would be favoured and by backing my favoured two high drawn runners I was able to (huge aftertime incoming!) back the 328/1 winning exacta. I’ll be examining more than just the draw here though.

Draw

The 9f distance over which the Cambridgeshire is run isn’t a common one and most years we have the Silver Cambridgeshire the day before to give us some draw hints. There is no such race this year though and two days of largely small field races this week haven’t told us much about a potential current draw bias, although the centre of track seems to be where a lot of the action has taken place.

Looking at the Draw Analyser in Geegeez Gold for this 9f trip at Newmarket, we have data for twenty-two races run on ground ranging from soft to good to firm in field sizes of 16+ since 2009:

Remarkably there has been little to no long term draw bias over this course and distance. The win figures are almost exactly the same across the board, the place figures are almost identical and the PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) data is exactly the same for low, middle and high draws.

More recently higher draws have seemed advantaged though. Looking at the eight qualifying races since 2016 gives quite a different outlook:

It looks as though the higher the better as far as recent draws are concerned with high draws having twice as strong a place ratio compared to low draws and all other metrics improving the higher you are drawn.

It has been profitable to blindly back several stalls each way since 2016 and six of the top seven most profitable stalls have been 19 or higher.

One thing to note about straight course draw advantages is they can often change depending on the ground. It looks as though this race will be run on something close to good to soft ground. In 2017 this race was run on good to soft ground and whilst the 1st and 5th home stuck to the near side rail, six of the first eight home actually raced in the far side group. That year’s Silver Cambridgeshire, run on the same good to soft ground, saw 16 runners start on the far side and finish on the stands’ side with the winner once again getting the near side rail on the run in.

In summary it’s been advantageous in recent years to be drawn higher in this race, especially if able to race predominantly against the near side rail. Lower draws however are certainly able to place at the very least and a middle draw is fine, especially on good to soft ground.

Pace

Newmarket is often a course that favours those who are near the pace but big fields and a strong early gallop  at any course can often swing things in favour of those who are held up, especially over slightly longer distances.

The Geegeez Gold Pace Analyser shows us that in this race it can be an advantage to lead in this race, leaders have the highest win percentage and place percentage and have produced a win P&L 15.0. So the best value will likely be found with front runners. In terms of volume, most wins and places are held up in mid division or in the rear.

It’s potentially worth noting, despite very limited data, that in two recent course and distance races on good to soft ground no horse that was held up in the rear even reached the frame.

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In this year’s renewal there are plenty of potential front runners and the pace seems fairly even across the track so on that score it should be a pretty fair contest.

The Distance

When recently analysing a 6.5f race at Doncaster  a trend emerged that recent winners tended to be 6f horses, with 7f specialists almost always finding it too sharp a test.

This race is contested by a mixture of milers and ten furlong performers - is there a bias towards speed or stamina?

Seven of the last ten winners of this race raced at a mile before taking this contest and five subsequently won a race over further. This seems to suggest this is slightly more of a speed contest than stamina contest (and you certainly don’t need to be proven over further than a mile) but having likely stamina for 10f or further would be a bonus.

Slightly more testing ground could have a say in this matter though. As previously mentioned, the 2017 renewal was run on good to soft ground.

The winner had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The runner up had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The 3rd had his previous race at 8f but had a prior success over 10f.
The 4th had never previously run over further than 8f.
The 5th had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.

So on this occasion proven stamina seemed a big positive but one thing certainly worth noting is that the first four home that year in both the Cambridgeshire and the Silver version had all raced at a mile at least once that season so this isn’t a race for ten furlong specialists.

How Well Handicapped Do You Have To Be To Win This?

This is an important question to ask as plenty of these runners look pretty well handicapped. However if you generally need to have at least a stone in hand of your rating that will rule many of these out.

Last year’s winner, Lord North, is now rated 25lbs higher than when winning this. His stable mate, Wissahickon was rated 10lbs higher than his winning mark in this less than 6 months later.

2017 victor, Dolphin Vista, was rated a stone higher than his rating when winning this within 5 subsequent starts on the flat. Spark Plug, winner in 2016, went up 8lbs for his victory and never rated higher.

The winner in 2015, Third Time Lucky, wasn’t the most consistent but did subsequently rate 11lbs higher whilst Bronze Angel, who won this twice off marks of 95 and 99, also won handicaps later in his career off 104 and 105 with his rating going as high as 111.

Meanwhile Educate, the 2013 Cambridgeshire winner, went up 8lbs to a mark of 112 for his victory and although he never rated higher, he ran to that mark of 112 several times in the next year.

This goes to show that in most cases the winner was 8lb to 10lbs well in. If you can’t see your pick rating that much higher than his current rating then he’s probably running for place money at best.

And on the subject of the official ratings, it can also pay to see what sort of rating does well in this race. You need to be well enough handicapped to win of course but you also need to be classy enough. This year there is 26lbs between the top weight and the bottom weight so a nice spread of ratings.

In the last 10 years the winners have been rated between 107 and 87 so that’s not going to rule many out this year for win purposes (just the top 3 rated horses, but two of those are quite well fancied). In fact no horse rated higher than Wissahickon’s 107 has even placed in the past decade.

Eight of the last ten winners have been rated 95 or higher which would rule out the bottom thirteen horses as likely winners. Just thirteen of the last forty placed horses were rated lower than 95 too. Eighteen placed runners have been rated between 95 and 100 inclusive and only eight runners this year represent that band. Meanwhile only eight placed horses were rated 101 or higher and seven horses are rated above 100 this year. Despite that relatively poor record for those higher up in the weights, in eight of the last ten years at least one horse rated 101 or higher has made the first four.

Half of the last ten winners have been rated between just 95 and 99 and only six runners (less than a quarter of the runners) this year fit into those ratings.

Cambridgeshire Odds

I’m not a fan of stats such as “only one winning favourite in the past ten years” as a runner doesn’t have less of a chance to win just because they’ve been backed from second favouritism into favouritism, and horses certainly don't know their odds.

However there is some mileage in looking at bands of prices that tend to do well as it shows if the results tend to be reflected in the previous form book or not.

The fact that eight of the last ten winners were priced up at 14/1 or lower goes to show that there aren’t many great shocks in this race. Now a runner currently priced up at 25/1 could end up winning at 14/1 tomorrow so not looking at anything above 14s would be counter-productive but it’s definitely something to consider with more than half the field likely to start at a bigger price.

The 2020 Cambridgeshire Field

So for place purposes it’s difficult to rule runners out based on draw, running style, stamina or official rating. However those who have raced at a mile at least once this season and those who are rated 100 or lower should largely be favoured, as should those drawn higher rather than lower.

For win purposes, we are likely looking for a runner:

Likely to have at least 8lbs in hand of official rating
Has run at a mile this season
Preferably races in mid division
Preferably drawn middle to high
Starting price of 14/1 or less

And those rated between 95 and 99 should certainly be very much considered.

So let’s look at the main contenders:

Tempus

He's won both starts this year (at a mile) and seemed to have improved for his seasonal reappearance last time out. He’s been consistently strong at the finish over a mile, will handle the ground fine and is 3lbs well in under his penalty. Looks the proverbial ‘group horse in a handicap’ and appears to have a nice draw in 23.

If you were picking holes in his form you could say he hasn’t beaten anything this year (nine beaten runners in his last two races haven’t placed between them since) but it’s not his fault he hasn’t raced against better horses and his tactical versatility could be an asset in this.

Sinjaari

Won the John Smith’s Cup in good style on his seasonal debut and unraced since (withdrawn twice because of soft ground). The ground is unlikely to be completely ideal here and he doesn’t look likely to be well served by the drop in trip either (tried several times over further than 10f last season). Stall 6 probably a slight negative too and likely to be given plenty to do. The form of his win this season does look strong though.

Ilaraab

Likely to be the shortest priced runner from the classic generation, who have won three of the last five renewals of this. Another of those ‘group horses in a handicap’ having won four on the trot including a mile novice win. It’s difficult to gauge the strength of his form but he did give 7lbs and a length beating to Spirit Dancer a few starts back and that horse has gone close in a handicap off 83 since so you can’t really argue he’s badly handicapped here off 94. Impossible to rule out completely.

Derevo

He’s looked primed to win a decent handicap this season but things haven’t quite worked out for him. This drop in trip in a big field should suit but he hasn’t raced at a mile this season and the ground has probably gone ever so slightly against him. The draw in stall 11 perhaps isn’t brilliant too so he might have to wait a bit longer for his first win in over a year.

Bell Rock

He appears to have been saved for this since finishing 3rd in a good handicap at Glorious Goodwood. That was his first run over 10f and he appeared to stay fine but he also has good form over a mile this season, notably when 6th in the Royal Hunt Cup from a poor draw. This 9f trip might be absolutely ideal for him but he’s been well enough beaten twice from this mark and doesn’t appeal as one who necessarily has 8lbs or more in hand despite relatively low mileage still.

Montatham

He's been a revelation this season since gelded, winning four of his six starts and not finishing out of the first 2. He won a very strong handicap two starts ago off 104 but had his limitations slightly exposed last time out at listed level and now finds himself racing off 109. He would have been beaten in his last couple of handicap wins in another stride or two so the step up in distance is a slight concern, as is stall 2.

Sir Busker

A real credit to connections and a horse I have a soft spot for having followed him since he was rated 77 last year. No one would have thought this horse would be a leading contender in the Cambridgeshire off 111 but that’s a testament to how much he has improved this season. He’s still capable of rating higher than 111, especially with cut in the ground, and he’ll adore this big field. However his last to first tactics won’t be easy to pull off here and stall 3 isn’t ideal so he’s reluctantly passed over. I’d take him in a match bet against Montatham though!

Certain Lad

This horse seems to keep on improving and he was a slightly surprise winner of a Group 3 last time out. This is a monumental ask off a mark of 112 though and he’s another with a draw lower than ideal in 8.

Fifth Position

This horse still looks well handicapped on several pieces of form this season, including his mile run at Newcastle in June and his John Smith’s Cup effort in July. He’ll enjoy the little bit of dig in the ground but he’s looked like he needs to go up in trip rather than back in trip this season. He may well run creditably and can still rate a fair bit higher than 104 but perhaps something like the November Handicap will be more his cup of tea.

Al Rufaa

Gosden and Dettori have won this for the past two years but this looks like a bit of an afterthought for Al Rufaa who has been exclusively campaigned at 7f. It’s difficult to see him staying and he was below par on softer ground last time out so a win in this would be a slight shock.

Lucander

A really interesting contender and one who looks overpriced. Well drawn in 27 and representing the 3yos who do well in this, he’s open to improvement after just eight starts and he brings big field handicap form into this. He won with a bit in hand last time out over 1.5f further on soft ground but was competitive earlier in the season over a mile when 3rd to Strait Of Hormuz.  That winner is now 13lbs higher, the runner up is 18lbs higher and the 4th is 17lbs higher. Lucander is only 9lbs higher than his 3rd over a mile and 4lbs higher than his recent win.

He’s likely to be held up in midfield which is fine and the only negative seems to be an inexplicably poor run at Newmarket’s July course this summer. His best form, and most his runs, have come on flatter tracks but that’s just a niggling worry more than anything.

One at a Bigger Price

Most of those at the bigger prices need to prove themselves in conditions or bounce back from poorer runs. One runner who seems to have been a little underestimated is John Berry’s Kryptos.

Before missing almost 3 years of racing he was beating the likes of Mountain Angel off almost level weights by 5 lengths. Mountain Angel went on to rate 113 yet Kryptos is still rated just 89. Since his return from injury his form has been a bit in and out, and certainly not to his pre-injury best, but there are signs he’s ready to strike. The most notable of those signs was two runs ago when his stamina was stretched at 10.5f, admittedly at Chester which isn’t the most stamina sapping of tracks. He was 3rd and the winner has since gone within a short head of winning again, the runner up has won a big handicap, the 4th has won since and the 5th has been an unlucky loser. He’s drawn in stall 4 which is probably a negative and this is probably too hot company but don’t be surprised to see him outrun his odds of 50/1 here and pop up at a big price before the season is out. One for the tracker at least.

Verdict

It would be no surprise if any of those near the head of the market were to triumph here, especially Tempus who appears to have untapped potential going up in trip (lots of stamina on the dam’s side). However he’s the favourite in a 29 runner race and still hasn’t seemingly beaten much in terms of well handicapped runners.

So at more than twice the price it is Lucander who appeals most. Not only does he bring a nice profile into the race and the scalps of some well handicapped rivals, he also seems to fit the bill of many previous winners perfectly. He’s almost certainly still got at least 8lbs improvement in him, he’s run well at a mile this season, he’s likely to race in mid division, he's drawn middle to high, he’s probably going to go off around 14/1 or shorter (currently priced up at 18/1 and 16/1 with most bookies) and he’s currently rated 98 which is just about the perfect sweet spot as far as ratings are concerned. Assuming he's fine at the track he should run very well.

Nine Runners To Consider In Saturday’s Big Sprints At Ayr

The two big handicaps on Saturday both take place at Ayr over 6f within 70 minutes of each other. With a total of 50 horses set to go to post across both the Ayr Gold Cup and Ayr Silver Cup picking winners, or even places, is not going to be easy.

I’ll be providing a shortlist of horses that have strong or hot form and are worth consideration for both races. In races like this there are always plenty of runners that have been laid out for the race so recent form isn’t necessarily the be all and end all but hopefully we’ll see some of these run well.

Ayr 6f Draw and Pace

A lot is always made of the draw in these cavalry charges but can we rule any runners out, or give extra consideration to others, based solely on the draw?

Looking at 16+ runner handicaps run at Ayr since 2009 on ground ranging from soft all the way up to good to firm, low draws have comfortably held the edge across all metrics.

The data offers some conflicting figures about whether middle is preferred to high or vice versa. It seems if you are drawn high, a particular area of the high draws and a certain run style is of great advantage.

High drawn front runners do particularly well. In fact in terms of PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) the most efficient and effective combination is high draw and speed. Prominent racers seem to have the same chance wherever they are drawn and then the more a horse is held up, the more it is an advantage to be drawn low.

It’s worth noting that all horses drawn in the top third of the draw contribute to the high drawn data. However if we look at individual draw data we see some quite revealing stats.

The above shows that as far as PRB is concerned, the two highest stalls are way out ahead, albeit with limited data, whilst the remaining high stalls are all amongst the worst for PRB. So it seems a very high draw is fine, or even advantageous, whereas a middle to high draw can be a big disadvantage.

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Looking at these races run on just good to soft ground gives us less data but hopefully a further insight into how the bias will be this weekend.

No wins for the middle stalls looks a bit misleading here as the place percentages and PRB both confirm a middle draw can be slightly preferable to a low draw.

The PRB heat map on good to soft ground once again shows that if you are drawn high you almost certainly need to be on the pace. If you are drawn low then it is potentially more of an advantage to be held up. The runners will probably split into two groups and the far side group will almost certainly be bigger so it stands to reason that those held up from a low draw get a decent pace to aim at and are therefore slightly advantaged.

If I had the pick of the draw and didn’t have an out and out front runner I’d probably choose a draw somewhere between 7 and 14. Horses can run well from low, middle and high stalls here though and a ‘better’ draw should only be seen as an advantage of perhaps a few lbs rather than a guarantee of victory.

Ayr Silver Cup – 2.30pm

King’s Lynn

It’s easy to see why he’s been installed as the 4/1 favourite here. He won a Doncaster sales race last year as a 2yo beating Repartee and Toro Strike (both since rated in triple figures).

Of more relevance is his form this season. He’s had just the one start, a month ago, in a novice event. He was defeated by 2.5 lengths when sent off odds on which on the face of it is disappointing. However the winner of the race has since won at listed level and is now rated 111 so for King’s Lynn to get within 2.5 lengths, in receipt of 2lb but conceding race fitness reads well for a horse now running in a handicap off 94. Full Authority was 4.5 lengths behind King’s Lynn in that race, also giving the Andrew Balding runner 2lbs, and he has gone close in two handicaps since off 87 which again suggests King’s Lynn’s effort was worthy of a mark north of 94.

His draw in stall 6 looks near perfect and even if just reproducing his last run he should go close. Add in some improvement for that first run of the season and the fact he’s still had just three starts and he’s tempting, even at prohibitive odds.

Rathbone

At around 12/1 he looks a solid each way bet based on his form at this distance this season. In June he finished 3rd to Glen Shiel and Tabdeed at Newcastle and both those runners have gone on to win Group 3 races recently. Back in 4th was Treacherous who won his next two starts in handicap company. Remarkably he gets to run off the same mark of 90 here despite also finishing runner up at Ascot last time out, beaten just a head.

He’s drawn in stall 22 and is often held up so that does look a big negative based on past draw data. Maybe the Bronze Cup will show this to not be the negative the data suggests.

Aplomb

This runner tends to be overbet but an inconsistent, disappointing season means he is finally becoming a working man’s price (as big as 18/1 at the time of writing). For his entire career he has looked in need of 6f and cut in the ground. Last year when he got those conditions his form was 21120, the last run was a very rare poor run at the end of a long season. He’d probably had enough at that point.

This season started off promisingly. He was a running on 5th over an inadequate 5f on fast ground on seasonal debut (1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th all at least runner up since). He’s now 3lb lower. Off the back of that run he was sent off near favourite for the Silver Wokingham but he found drying ground against him and ran a respectable 7th. All runs since have come at less than 6f.

The bad news is he is 5lbs wrong here compared to his current, falling mark. He is still well handicapped on old form though and under optimum conditions from stall 10 he could outrun his odds.

Magical Spirit

It’s surprising to see this horse available at 28/1 for this. He does have a bit of an in and out profile but he has run well in both turf starts this season and seemed to benefit from a wind op last time out when a running on 4th at Haydock in deep ground. The 3rd that day, Danzeno, went close to winning the Portland Handicap on his next start and Magical Spirit was only half a length behind Danzeno on this occasion. He’s won at 6f before and the return to this trip should suit.

Show Me Show Me

The biggest question mark for this one, and probably the only reason he’s available at 33/1, is the trip. He should be well handicapped here based on his Royal Ascot 8th in which the 1st, 2nd and 7th have all won since and many others have run well in defeat. He’s now 7lbs lower despite running okay and being better than the bare form on his last two starts.

This is a step back up to 6f, which he hasn’t convinced at yet in three starts. However two of those came as a 2yo and the one run at this distance as a 3yo came in a Group 3 for which he was sent off 28/1 and at that time Richard Fahey’s runners were mostly needing, or improving for their first runs of the season. He has often been outpaced at the half way point over 5f so there is hope he can stay this fair and from stall 4 he should run well if staying.

Ayr Gold Cup – 3.40pm

Staxton

Last two wins have come at Ripon, where he tends to do well, and both races have worked out nicely. The first of those victories saw him beat a dual subsequent winner whilst the 4th has finished runner up on both starts since and the 5th has won since. Five winners have emerged from his latest win including the 3rd and the 4th. He’s another 6lbs higher and hasn’t performed brilliantly here for the past two years but he’s better handicapped than the last two attempts and he does hold Mr Lupton (favourite at the time of writing) on the bare form of their recent meeting too and has a decent draw in the middle.

Mr Lupton

He was 3rd to Staxton on his penultimate start in that aforementioned warm race and went two places better to win a big field Curragh sprint next time out. Mr Lupton is 1lb better off with Staxton for a 0.75 length loss and now has the 5lb claim of Billy Garritty so has claims of reversing placings over this different course. Stall 11 looks pretty much perfect for him.

Barbill

A winner on his seasonal debut in a race that couldn’t be much hotter. The 2nd was runner up in the Stewards’ Cup on his next run at the distance, the 3rd and 4th have both won twice since and the 5th has also won since.

He’s now 10lbs higher, which makes life a lot more difficult but the 3rd is now rated a stone higher and the 4th won easily last week off a 6lb higher mark so it’s not beyond him, especially as he was a running on 6th in the Portland Handicap a week ago after being badly hampered at the start of the race.

From stall 12 he appears to have an excellent chance here.

Bungee Jump

This runner has almost certainly lost his form based on his last two runs but it’s interesting that this front runner is drawn in the second highest stall here – an angle that has done well in the past. On his seasonal debut he beat subsequent winners into 2nd and 3rd and he held his form well for his next two starts. He’s gone up 8lbs in the ratings this season but if he returns to form and if front running on the near side rail is an advantage (neither are guaranteed) he’d surely have as much chance as anything so 50/1 perhaps underestimates him, for all he is a very risky proposition.

Final Thoughts

Two very difficult races but if given two selections in each race I'd go for King's Lynn and Magical Spirit in the Silver Cup and then Barbill and Mr Lupton in the Gold Cup. The best bet between the two races is potentially Barbill each way at 25/1 (price correct as of Friday afternoon) given pretty much everything appears to be in his favour here.

Do The Bookies Have The Wrong 3yo Favourites In The Doncaster Opener?

The Portland Handicap was the obvious race to cover for Saturday but it would be very much a case of throwing a few darts at that race and you could feasibly back a horse that is beaten half a length and it could still be unplaced so instead I’m going to cover the 1.15 at Doncaster which gets underway before the ITV cameras begin rolling at Doncaster.

This is a mile handicap for 3yos and above and with twelve runners set to go to post it will hopefully be a lot easier to find the winner than the Portland Handicap later on in the card. Once again I’ll be mostly concentrating on ‘hot form’, a deeper dive into the strength of each horse’s form to date.

The Runners

King Ottaker

Mostly contested group races so far and only wins to date have been on soft ground. Arguably his best run to date was in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and he hasn’t run particularly well in all three runs this season, all of which were over 10f on softer ground. It would be a surprise if he was competitive here off 102 back at a mile on drying ground.

Teston

Started the season off with a surprise 6 length win over course and distance at 20/1 and has raced twice in France since. That win was admittedly impressive but he beat very little that day with thirty-six runs from those in behind since and just six places (no wins). He’s gone up 11lbs for that victory and he probably left his chance of further handicap sucess this season behind with that victory and the inevitable hike in the weights that followed it.

Another Touch

Put together a hat trick of wins on the all weather over the winter but has since found a triple figure rating beyond him. He’s now dropped to a mark of 98, his highest winning rating on turf, but he needs to return to form having been beaten 10 lengths at York last time out off a 5lb higher mark when sent off 100/1. That race was a hot contest to be fair with the 2nd filling the same spot in a Group 2 next time, the 3rd winning a Group 3 on his next start and the 6th winning a handicap easily on his next run. The 8th also franked the form with a 2nd next time but Another Touch was 6 lengths behind even that runner so can’t be considered similarly well handicapped.

Firmanent

Was a half a length behind Another Touch last time out at his beloved York, the first below par run he’s ever put in at that venue. His very best form seems to have come at York but he was 2nd at Meydan earlier this year over this distance off a 1lb higher mark so isn’t hopelessly handicapped at other courses.

He’s also 1lb lower than his 4th at Newcastle in June in a race that has worked out supremely well.

The winner of that race, Sir Busker, has since gone up 19lbs in the ratings, the runner up, Dark Vision, has risen 12lbs. Meanwhile the 3rd, Fifth Position, won his next start and is now 5lbs higher. Firmanent was just 0.75 lengths behind Fifth Position so is on a workable mark having dropped 1lb since then.

His last run is a worry as it was a rare blip but it’s worth noting that was Sean Kirrane’s first ride on the horse and he was ridden more prominently than usual which might help explain things. If none the worse for that effort he could run well here.

Magical Morning

Beaten over 8 lengths on his penultimate start and over 16 lengths on his latest run but represents Gosden/Dettori so sure to have some supporters. He won a novice stakes impressively on seasonal debut but a 4 length beating of Mayfair Pompette (struggling in handicaps off 74) in receipt of 6lbs isn’t worthy of a handicap rating of 97 here. He followed that up with another novice win here, over course and distance. On that occasion he was a length ahead of Dreamloper, giving her 12lbs, and she’s since won off 85 which helps explain Magical Morning’s lofty rating.

His first poor run came on rain softened ground at Newmarket in a listed race which gives him an excuse for that and his next flop came on his first try over 10f at Goodwood. He did run like a non stayer that day but didn’t run like a horse ready to strike when back in trip.

This handicap mark isn’t beyond him based on his sole run at this venue and perhaps the return here could revive his fortunes and the drop back in trip should definitely suit but he still needs to prove his well being.

Misty Grey

One of two runners for Mark Johnston. He made a belated seasonal debut just a week ago at Kempton, keeping on well in what is likely to turn out to be a strong race. He met some trouble early in the straight and shaped as though he’d definitely improve for the run. He was ridden closer to the pace last year so the fact that he was held up in last at Kempton suggests that run was definitely designed to bring him on.

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As is often the case with one from this stable, he had a busy juvenile campaign with nine runs and he was highly tried (less than 5 lengths behind Golden Horde in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood).

He’s run at Doncaster before, finishing a nose behind Lazuli in a 3 runner conditions race. That runner has scored easily at listed level this season whilst Brad The Brief, 1.75 lengths back in 3rd, has also won a listed race this season. He looks well enough handicapped to win a race this season and is likely to be seen to better effect ridden closer to the pace this time.

Aweedram

Returned in good form this season after losing his way last year. His 2nd to Alternative Fact at Haydock in July off a 5lb lower mark has been well enough advertised since with every runner from the first 6 who has run since at least placing subsequently.

He’s not the most straight forward though, has shown his best form on softer ground and is having his first run for Kevin Frost having left Alan King since his last run. He’ll be of more interest later in the season back on softer ground.

Matthew Flinders

The most lightly raced contender in this field, he was a fairly warm order dropping back to a mile last time out at Sandown and ran well enough in 3rd, beaten less than a length. He raced a bit wider than ideal on that occasion but didn’t seem to have any obvious excuses. Grove Ferry, 5th that day, has since finished 3rd but did look as though he’d improve for the run at Sandown and a similar comment applies to Raaeq (a head in front of Matthew Flinders last time) who won comfortably on Friday with the better ground suiting when successful.

He’s up 2lbs and entitled to be competitive once again with the form of his last race beginning to work out well but both of the runners who have boosted the form were entitled to improve a fair bit on their next starts. He is clearly not badly handicapped but I do have a feeling he is only fairly handicapped. It's not a shock that he's the early favourite but he doesn't look a value play.

Overwrite

He’s been fairly consistent all season, running as though this mile trip is his optimum when not quite getting home in four attempts over further. His mile form stands up pretty well, he lost a class 2 handicap to Tempus in the stewards’ room in August and Tempus has come out and won again since. His limitations were slightly exposed on his next start in a big field of unexposed 3yos at York when 6th, 4.25 lengths behind La Trinidad who reopposes here.

He’d be perfectly entitled to finish around 3rd or 4th here but no reason why he should reverse the form with La Trinidad and vulnerable for win purposes once again racing 7lbs higher than his last win.

Diocles Of Rome

Bit of an eyecatcher here over a furlong shorter last time out on seasonal debut in a decent race, being outpaced when a slow early gallop lifted before staying on really well late on. The winner, just 0.75 lengths in front of him that day, finished a close 2nd next time off a 2lb higher mark.

Ghlayoon, 2nd in that race, was a better than the bare result 3rd on Friday and Breanski (6th) finished 3rd here this week when probably inconvenienced by a drop back in trip on that occasion. So whilst this race hasn’t thrown up subsequent winners yet, those that have run have each emerged as pretty much the best horse in their respective races.

This is his first run over a mile in over 2 years and it’s impossible to say if all his improvement since has come because he dropped back in trip or because he was gelded ahead of that drop back in trip. On the face of it he shaped as if needing further last time but the early gallop was steady that day and given he can be keen in his races he’d be a safer bet in a well run 7f.

Other than his recent close 5th here he previously won by 2 lengths at Doncaster so clearly goes well at the track.

Sandret

After winning on his sole appearance at this track, over 2f further, he’s largely struggled.. He’s been tried over 12f this season (failed to stay) and now has his first run over a mile in 13 months.

The winner of his last race, when he was beaten over 5 lengths into 5th, has remarkably since won a Group 1 (Audarya). It would be best not to take that literally and instead look what the rest of the field have done since. The 3rd, What’s The Story, ran okay back at his favoured York whilst the 4th, Dark Jedi, has finished runner up in two good races since. Sandret was 2.5 lengths behind Dark Jedi though and arguably the best gauge of his handicap mark is Cockalorum who was a short head behind him and has run twice since. Cockalorum finished 4th on both subsequent starts running pretty well in a big York handicap before not being quite in the same form next time out.

Sandret’s last run was a fairly good one, certainly better than it looked, and a 2lb drop gives him half a chance of being competitive at a price (around 16/1 at the time of writing). His last run at a mile was off a 5lb lower mark and he was beaten on the nod by a nose by Romola who has since rated a stone higher so he’s certainly not a no hoper, but he’ll need a strong pace to aim at.

La Trinidad

An improved performer at 3 having shown very little last year as a juvenile. He won comfortably over 8.5f on his seasonal debut and the horse to get closest to him on that day and have run since was Phoenix Approach who won two runs later. He followed that win up with an easy 5 length win here at Doncaster (7f), a victory that saw him rise 12lbs in the handicap. The 3rd from that race has won twice since but there have been a fair few poor efforts too.

He remained at 7f at York on his next two starts, presumably finding good to soft ground too testing on the first of those when fairly well beaten before getting within 2 lengths of Brunch back on faster ground.

Brunch, Black Caspian and La Trinidad all met again next time out at York over a mile, finishing in the exact same placings as they did over 7f previously. Jumaira Bay ran to form next time winning a maiden (2nd in that maiden came out and won by 8 lengths) so the form of these runners stacks up. Even the 7th , 8th ,and 9th have both come out and placed.

You could argue that the form of La Trinidad took a few knocks on Thursday. Jumaira Bay and Black Caspian both ran relatively poorly but Jumaira Bay was sporting first time headgear that looked likely to not suit and all of Black Caspian’s best form has been at York. Also Eastern World, who was 2.5 lengths behind La Trinidad over a mile at York, ran poorly but he too had first time headgear on and was dropping back a furlong so it’s understandable he didn’t run to form. It’s fair to say this isn’t ideal for La Trinidad but with the valid excuses it’s not a major concern either.

La Trinidad was the one to take out of the mile handicap won by Brunch at York. He was held up in last and denied a run from 2.5f out to 1.5f out but he flew once in the clear and is probably unlucky not to be unbeaten over further than 7f this season. He’s up 4lbs for that effort and it would be no surprise to see similar hold up tactics employed again, but probably with more success over this straight mile in a smaller field.

Draw and Pace

With only 12 runners here the draw isn’t going to completely make or break any of them.

All metrics point towards a middle draw being advantaged but a low draw not being far off. High drawn runners have performed really poorly on good ground over a mile in this sort of field size. Jockeys seem to have preferred to go near side in a lot of races this week when possible but you get similar data regarding high being a disadvantage on both good to firm ground and good to soft ground so I’m inclined to think a middle draw is definitely going to be ideal.

A few runners in this race are going to want a decent pace to aim at so let’s check out a pace map.

There is every chance Teston and Overwrite take each other on up front. There is also a good chance that Misty Grey is ridden much closer to the pace this time, he led on three of his final five runs last season, but you’d assume Mark Johnston wouldn’t want both his runners cutting each other’s throats. Magical Morning’s best form has also come when on or near the pace so expect to see him close up.

With most of the pace drawn central they’ll almost certainly elect to come up the centre of the track.

Verdict

You could make some sort of case for many. Magical Morning has too many question marks and I expected much bigger than 7/2 on him so he looks no value at all. I respect Matthew Flinders but also suspect he isn’t as well handicapped as many think he is so I’m going to put a line through him too. If Matthew Flinders is successful be sure to put First Winter and Zegalo into your tracker as both were close up in his last race.

There are some trip question marks over Diocles Of Rome and Sandret. Don’t be surprised if the latter massively outruns his odds but in a race with some solid contenders both are too risky. Diocles will remain of interest over 7f.

Overwrite is very much exposed and very vulnerable for win purposes. His stable mate Misty Grey was ridden to pick up the pieces last time and whilst he’s of some interest, this may be too strong a race for him. Look out for that runner in a slightly less competitive contest or if his Kempton run begins to work out.

That leaves La Trinidad and Firmanent as most interesting. Firmanent needs to bounce back from a rare poor run but reverting to hold up tactics here should help. The very early 25/1 offered on him looked far too big and even the 20/1 available at the time of writing looks a mistake.

Firmanent finishes 2nd twice as often as he wins though and he’s never won a handicap away from York so whilst he is likely to run well in defeat, it is La Trinadad who is drawn in the centre stall who gets the vote. He hasn’t run a bad race on ground that is good or better this season, those runs have all worked out pretty well and he should probably be undefeated at this distance this season. He has a course win to his name and should definitely rate higher this season. At an early 11/2 he looks a very fair each way bet in this contest.

Speed May Be Favoured In Tough Doncaster Handicap

The 2.10 at Doncaster on Friday is an interesting race not just because there are some lightly raced, progressive types on show. This race will be a rare run over 6.5f so let’s first see whether some of the more recent winners of this race were more 6f types or more comfortable over 7f.

2019 – Enjazaat – Thirteen of his fourteen races were over 6f, this 6.5f distance was the furthest distance he went.
2018 – Von Blucher – Won handicaps over a mile, 7f and this 6.5f trip but was never successful in nine races over shorter (needed every inch of this trip to get up).
2017 – Amazour – Other than a win at this trip, he also won three times at 6f and three times at 7f so seemed equally effective at both trips.
2016 – Normandy Barriere – Had placed form at 7f but this 6.5f trip was the furthest he won over and five of his six wins came at 6f.
2015 – Hoof It – Poor in all five runs at 7f or further and other than winning at this trip, all ten of his other wins came at 6f or shorter.
2014 – Badr Al Badoor – Unsuccessful in five runs over 7f (did place though) and her three other wins came at 6f.
2013 – Sir Reginald – Unsuccessful in seventeen runs over further than 6.5f and his two other wins came at 6f (also had a much better place ratio at 6f compared to 7f).
2012 – Cape Classic – Had some decent placed form at 7f but failed to win at that distance in ten attempts whereas he had a 50% strike rate at shorter than 7f.
2011 – Sirius Prospect – Won over as far as a mile but also had five wins over this distance of 6.5f or shorter.
2010 – Irish Heartbeat – Won twice over a mile (no wins over 7f) but had also won over 5f the previous season.

The above seems to show that this race rides more like a 6f race than a 7f race with speed over shorter a valuable asset for potential winners.

The Runners

Shabaaby

He’s found himself in no man’s land with his rating, not well enough handicapped for the big handicaps and not good enough to win at listed or Group 3 level. He was well beaten in a Newbury handicap two starts ago where only one winner has emerged from seventeen runs, and that was on a different surface. So off just a 3lb lower mark he’d have to massively up his game to be involved here.

Chiefofchiefs

A surprise winner of the Silver Wokingham this season at Ascot on his first start at 6f. He ran at Ascot again over 7f on his most recent start but even if you go all the way back to 16th place in that race, only one winner has emerged from twenty-five runs and that came at a different distance. He’s always struggled off this sort of mark and is likely to find many of these too quick.

Byline

Not the most consistent profile but he has some decent form to his name. When winning his maiden he gave 5lbs and a 3.5 length beating to Dark Regard, now rated 88, so a mark of 95 may not be beyond him. On his most recent win, off an 8lb lower mark, he beat a subsequent winner (Musicality who reopposes here) by 2.75 lengths so he has some good recent form in the book too.

His latest flop came on his first go on soft ground, the race in which Musicality came out and won. He has won on good to soft before but it’s possible the very soft ground was against him that day.

On his seasonal debut he was 3rd in a race that has worked out pretty well.

The winner of that race has since won at listed level, the runner up was 2nd again next time and the 4th has run well in defeat since.

Musicality

His form ties in quite closely with Byline. That rival gave Musicality 1lb and a 2.75 length beating on good to firm ground before Musicality beat Byline by 7 lengths in receipt of 8lbs on soft ground when Byline didn’t seem to run to form.

Musicality has a much more consistent profile than Byline and more scope for improvement having never been out the first two in just four starts. He has now won on both soft ground and good to firm so looks likely to give his running once again.

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Now getting 1lb once again from Byline, he’s no guarantee to beat that runner if Byline can bounce back but that’s obviously no certainty, even on better ground here.

Tranchee

Finding the right distance for this runner has proved a challenge in the past as he’s been tried over as far as 10f but for current connections he has raced solely at 7f. He’s yet to finish out of the first two for David Loughnane when completing, winning his debut for the trainer before unseating the jockey when exiting the stalls on his following start. He’s finished runner up on two runs since.

His last run came just a week ago so no runners have been able to show the strength of that form since but his previous race has been working out okay.

Tranchee himself gave the form a boost with his follow up 2nd whilst the 3rd finished in the same position again next time in a similar race and the 7th, Cold Stare, won next time out.

He’s yet to run at shorter than 7f but he’s got plenty of speed and has looked worth a try over a stiff 6f so this could end up being ideal. It’s worth noting that his best form seems to have come on soft ground or artificial surfaces but he’s had few goes on faster ground and is bred to improve for it compared to soft. The sire’s offspring have a 10% strike rate on soft (-22.15 LSP) compared to 17.87% on good to firm (0.69 LSP).

Manigordo

This 3yo has largely been campaigned over 7f, trying shorter just once when competing over this course and distance at this meeting last year in the big field sales race. He looked as if he’d prefer a bit further that day so it is no surprise he’s been kept to further since.

He has been well enough beaten on his last two starts at handicap level, the latest coming in an okay race with plenty of places since but no winners from seven runs. He only beat one runner that day though and almost certainly needs to drop more than 4lbs from that.

Ghalyoon

Possibly a huge handicap blot here. On his first start of 2019 he was 2nd to Group 1 winner Nazreef (rated 116), beaten just 1.25 lengths. Lyndon B, who would rate as high as 97 later that season was 6 lengths further back in 3rd.

If there were any worries that run was a fluke he backed that effort up when winning next time. It was only novice company but in hindsight another extremely strong race.

He beat Posted by 0.5 lengths and that runner has since been competitive in Group races, now rating as high as 105.

For Ghalyoon to still be rated in the high 80s looked an absolute gift going into his handicap debut, here at Doncaster a few weeks ago, despite coming back from a 399 day layoff. Ghlayoon found the line coming too quickly though, staying on late with purpose and only going down by 0.25 lengths to Magical Wish, who finished a close 2nd on his next start despite probably finding the ground slightly against him next time out.

Ghalyoon has generously only be raised 1lb for that effort and still looks very well handicapped but he doesn’t look a speedy type and looks best served by a strong gallop over 7f.

Danzan

Yet to win a handicap and unsuccessful in his last sixteen runs but he has been runner up in his last three handicap efforts. He’s only been raised 3lbs for those performances meaning he’s still 19lbs below his peak rating so the handicap mark shouldn’t be a huge issue.

The races in which he has finished 2nd look solid but unremarkable so he’d be a contender here if putting his best foot forward but it’s worth noting there was plenty of cut in the ground on all recent starts and this drying ground is likely to be against him.

Edgewood

Successful twice in three runs this season after a frustrating 2019 campaign. The 2nd and 3rd from his latest win have finished 2nd and 1st respectively in their next starts and considering he won that race by over 2 lengths a 7lb rise looks pretty fair. He looks a relatively strong stayer at 6f so the extra half furlong should be no issue.

Drying ground is a valid concern though as he’s failed to win in four runs on good or faster ground and he’ll be worth following when the mud is flying again.

Broken Spear

Without a win in his last thirteen handicap starts and has only dropped 9lbs in that time. He has placed on his last two starts but those have come in weaker looking races than this. There have been nine subsequent runs from the competition in his last two starts and none of those have placed.

Sunset Breeze

He's been a ‘typical Sir Mark Prescott improver’ this season despite racing at a much shorter distance to many of his stable mates. He completed a handicap hat trick earlier in the season in races that haven’t really worked out brilliantly.

He found a rise to class 2 too much for him at Newmarket in July, finishing 6th of 17 in a race where none of the first eight finishers have won since. It looked as though he might find a mark of 87 too high going forward but he seemed to improve for 7f last time out, going down by just a neck. He runs off the same mark here and is due to go up 5lbs in the future so it can’t be argued that he’s not well handicapped.

Pace and Draw

There aren’t a huge amount of races run over this distance at Doncaster so looking at data for this particular distance isn’t going to reveal any huge course biases. On good ground, a central stall has been advantageous over both 6f and 7f with high draws generally slightly better than low so we are likely to see the same trend over this trip.

An aggregate of the last two runs suggest possible lone speed here (from Byline) but it’s worth noting that Sunset Breeze contested the pace last time out. Tranchee is also likely to be very close to the lead early on.

Verdict

With a middle draw and a half decent pace to aim at Ghalyoon would have been a confident selection to win this if the race was being run over 7f. This race has tended to go to speedier types in the past though and as he heads the market it just seems a little too much risk at the price. It would be no surprise if he is a staying on 3rd or 4th here.

It is possible that Ghalyoon is ridden more handily this time around to negate the drop back in trip and he does look really well handicapped so it’s with a heavy heart he is passed over and I wouldn’t put anyone off at least a saver on this runner.

Musicality is clearly progressive and wouldn't be a surprise winner but he’s no sure thing to beat Byline, who is more than twice the price of Musicality, so the value seeker in me tends to prefer Byline of that pair. He’s no guarantee to give his running though unfortunately so isn’t selected for a bet.

Sunset Breeze is another with a decent chance but he’s yet to race on turf faster than good to soft and this is a quick enough turn around for him.

This certainly won’t be my most confident bet of the week but Tranchee is the one that interests me most at the price. He’s unproven over this trip, and on this ground to a certain extent, but he’s bred to enjoy a sounder surface and shapes as though a drop back in trip will suit. His form is solid enough, he’s been progressive for current connections and taking a lead off a decent pace over this trip might just see him at his absolute best. He's not yet the 6f type that normally does well in this race but he could yet develop into a good sprinter.

Grounds For Concern For Leading Superior Mile Runner

There are plenty of big handicaps on Saturday and we also have Group 1 action so it should be a great day for betting whatever your race type preference. This week I’m going to look at another one mile Group race, having previewed the Celebration Mile last week at Goodwood. This week it's the Group 3 Superior Mile (1.45pm) at Haydock.

I’ll be using Instant Expert once again for this race but it’s worth noting that there are some more lightly raced types in this race compared to last week which means there will be a few more unknowns.

The Going

The ground is going to be a hugely important factor here with underfoot conditions currently described as soft, heavy in places on Friday afternoon. It’s due to be a dry weekend so we’ll probably be look at soft ground all over.

To get as much data into Instant Expert as possible I’m going to include data from ground described anywhere between good to soft and heavy.

Superior Mile Instant Expert

A few things initially stand out here. First of all Dark Vision has failed to place in all four starts on softish ground. He’d have half a chance on his best form but it looks as though a line can be put through this runner when there is cut in the ground.

Khaloosy and Kinross both have both encountered softer ground once and they both won those races.

Stormy Antarctic and Qaysar have both had plenty of experience in these kinds of conditions and both have strong records. Stormy Atlantic has placed in six of his eight runs on ground ranging from good to soft to heavy whilst Qaysar is three from five as far as placing is concerned. The pair both have three wins when the mud is flying.

The well fancied My Oberon and Top Rank are yet to run on softer than good whilst outsider Graignes is also an unknown as far as the ground is concerned.

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For those that are yet to run on softer ground we can get an insight into their suitability for testing conditions by using Instant Expert to look at sire data.

Superior Mile Sire Stats

Stormy Atlantic (Stormy Antarctic), Kingman (Kinross) and Dubawi (Khaloosy & My Oberon) all score well here and those sire stats aren’t contradicted by what we have seen from these offspring so far which is great. Comparatively the offspring of Dark Angel perform fairly poorly so Top Rank is far from guaranteed to enjoy these conditions.

Class

My Oberon has run once and placed once in class 1 races. Stormy Antarctic is by far the most experienced of these at this level with fourteen runs and six places. Dark Vision has two places from six attempts in class 1 races so he’s had plenty of tries at this sort of level without much success. Another strike against that runner.

Qaysar and Top Rank both step up in class whilst Khaloosy has failed to place in his only run in a class 1 with Kinross failing to place in two attempts in class 1 races.

Course

Not much course form on offer here but a big tick for Qaysar who has placed in two runs from three here. Both of those places were actually victories.

Distance

Top Rank has been most consistent at a mile to date, placing in all five starts, which we know were all at a lower level than this. At the other end of the scale Kinross and Qaysar have not been as consistent at this trip.

Field Size

Top Rank and Khaloosy have both placed in their sole start in fields of this sort of size. We have much more data for Stormy Antarctic, Qaysar and Dark Vision who are clearly comfortable in these mid sized fields.

A Look At The Form

We have plenty of question marks still as we only have limited data for the more lightly raced contenders.

Doubts Over Top Rank and Kinross Justified?

Top Rank and Kinross are two runners who are on the brink of having a line put through them based on the results from Instant Expert. Top Rank was beaten by a length in a handicap off a mark of 103 last time out. He’s now rated 106 which leaves him with 8lbs to find on the top rated runner here. He is lightly raced so may still improve but he’ll need to do so on ground he’s unproven on so comes with plenty of risk attached for a 6/1 chance.

Kinross has form on this sort of ground but it’s difficult to weight up as it was a wide margin maiden win. He did beat the now 97 rated Raaeb by 8 lengths (in receipt of 6lbs) so it was a smart effort on that occasion. His two runs this season have come in Group 1 company and he hasn’t been totally disgraced, especially as those runs came on faster ground. He’ll need to improve for the return to this ground though and he’s as yet unproven in ground quite this soft so backers are taking plenty of chances.

The Shortlist

There is little form that suggests Graignes is going to win this and the ground looks against Dark Vision so we are currently left with:

Khaloosy
My Oberon
Stormy Antarctic
Qaysar

First let’s look at the more exposed pair of Stormy Antarctic and Qaysar. Stormy Antarctic has had an official rating between 111 and 114 for the past 4 years which means we should know exactly how good he is. Instant Expert has shown that he is a horse with an okay record in better class races that relishes cut in the ground. On heavy ground he has form figures of 112, on soft ground he has form of 114 and that defeat came at the hands of Roaring Lion in a Group 1. Even on good to soft ground at a mile his form figures are 10222 with that blowout coming in the 2000 Guineas.

He clearly loves this ground but how good is he? He’s the horse to beat according to official ratings, although there are several possible improvers in this line up. He’s won two of his three starts at Group 3 level over a mile. His defeat came earlier this year at the hands of Century Dream. He carried a Group 2 penalty that day (which he doesn’t have to shoulder here) and that was his first start in almost 12 months so 4th was a decent enough effort. At Group 2 level at this trip he has finished 2nd and 3rd and the ground wasn’t quite as soft as he’d like on either occasion. He’s clearly good enough to win this sort of race and will be getting close to ideal conditions here.

Unlike Stormy Antarctic, Qaysar is completely unproven at this level. He’s improved each season though and is rated just 3lbs shy of Stormy Antarctic courtesy of winning a handicap over course and distance on testing ground by 4.25 length off a mark of 105. He’s failed to reproduce that form in two runs since but one of those runs was in a small field conditions race on fast ground and the other was in a York handicap off a mark of 111 and he was well enough beaten on his previous York run off a much lower mark. He’s probably not going to prove much better than his current rating but his best career run came here under similar conditions and a reproduction of that might see him reach the places.

Khaloosy and Oberon actually met last time in a Group 3 at Goodwood and My Oberon was 2.5 lengths in front of Khaloosy. My Oberon was also badly hampered by the winner so was value for further. Whilst My Oberon looked at home on the ground that day Khaloosy looked all at sea with the combination of fast ground and unconventional track clearly against him. Khaloosy is much better judged on his previous effort at Royal Ascot where he won the Britannia Handicap easily. That race has worked out well and beating Finest Sound (now rated 94) giving him 7lbs and a comfortable looking 4.5 length beating means he probably ran to a rating even higher than his current mark of 111 that day.

My Oberon has no soft ground form and although he’s bred to handle it, he’s previously been described by his trainer as ‘a fast ground horse’ so there have to be some reservations. Those same reservations don’t hang over Khaloosy whose sole run in testing conditions was by far his best.

Pace

We all know how important pace can be, especially in these smaller field races that can be run at a crawl on occasions. Here is the pace map for this race based on their last four runs:

Superior Mile Pace Map

As you can see, there doesn’t appear to be much pace in this contest so those that are able to sit handily could be advantaged as could be those who have proven themselves to be a bit ‘speedier’. Stormy Antarctic stays further than this so he’d ideally want a strong test and many of Qaysar’s best efforts have come when held up, although he is tactically versatile. My Oberon has a nice race style for this sort of set up but the question mark over the ground remains. Khaloosy was held up at Ascot but those were the right tactics to employ on the day and he’s been ridden much more prominently in his other runs.

Verdict

Assuming Khaloosy isn’t just much better at Ascot, he deserves another chance here and after just 4 career starts he should be able to improve past the extremely solid yard stick that is Stormy Antarctic. Meanwhile Qaysar isn’t a terrible bet for a place and could fill 3rd spot behind the other pair if things go to plan.

Dream Conditions For Century In Celebration Mile

Soft ground seems to have scared many runners away this weekend leaving us with a day of largely smaller field races. The highest class race of the day is the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood and that’s going to be the focus of this article. One of the most popular features of Geegeez Gold is the ‘Instant Expert’ and I’m going to use the Instant Expert to gain a quick overview of the seven runners set to take part in this race.

Place Data

First let’s take a look at it from a place perspective:

Instant Expert Place Data

Ground

I’ve set the going parameter to anything from good to soft down to heavy. We are probably going to be looking at soft, borderline heavy ground for this race but this should allow us to get more data. We can dig deeper into what specific going each horse has handled or not handled later.

It seems that Century Dream and Sir Busker stand out as two runners that not only handle cut in the ground, but relish it. Century Dream has had the most runs on testing ground and has impressively placed in seven of his ten runs. Sir Busker is next best with four placings from six runs on ground that is good to soft or softer.

There is limited evidence about Urban Icon’s ability to handle cut in the ground as he’s had just two runs in these conditions, placing in one of those.

Interestingly enough Regal Reality and Benbatl, the two early favourites have failed to place in over 50% of their races in this sort of going. Between them they’ve managed just three placings in nine starts. The only runners in this field to have never placed on softer ground are Duke Of Hazzard and Positive who seem to have been kept away from softer ground as often as possible and with good reason.

Class

Century Dream again comes out on top having placed in five out of eight runs in class 1 races. Duke Of Hazzard and Positive, who scored poorly on this ground, actually score very well here. That’s not a big help though if they don’t go on the ground.

Urban Icon, Regal Reality and Benbatl have poorer records in class 1 races but it’s worth remembering this will include anything from listed contests to Group 1 races and there can be more merit in finishing 4th in a Group 1 than 1st in a listed race. We’ll dig deeper into the race class later.

Sir Busker is the only one of these to be running in a class 1 race for the first time.

Course

At a course as unique as Goodwood course form is always a positive. There is one clear winner here and that is Duke Of Hazzard who has never been out of the frame in four starts. Sir Busker has placed in two of his three runs. It’s fair to say that no runner is this field has run poorly at this venue.

Distance

You’d expect most runners in a Group 2 to have a solid record over the race distance but it’s worth noting that the favourite here, Benbatl, has managed just one placing in five runs at a mile. This stat really stands out and along with the ground stats for Benbatl suggests he has a poor profile for this race.

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Like Benbatl, Regal Reality is another who scored badly on this ground and also has a poor record over this distance whilst Urban Icon is another with a sub 50% placing ratio at a mile.

Century Dream continues to score well with the best ratio here having placed in 67% of his runs over a mile.

Field Size

Often an underrated criteria, many horses are better suited to bigger fields and others to smaller fields. Yet again Century Dream is looking good having placed in all his runs in field sizes of 7 or less.

The stand out here is Regal Reality’s record in small fields. He’s managed to place in just two of his eight runs in field sizes this small.

Placings Summary

Without having to dig deep into the form Instant Expert has shown us that Century Dream is the really solid horse in this race. Sir Busker also scores well in most categories but is unproven (having been untried) in this sort of company. Duke Of Hazzard looks pretty good but there are serious ground concerns.

At the other end of the scale, Benbatl and Regal Reality, look two of the riskier propositions despite their positions in the market.

Win Data

This is what Instant Expert looks like for win purposes. We are getting less data here but the data we do get should be more telling.

Instant Expert Win Data

Once again Century Dream is coming out very well on all criteria except course as he is yet to run at Goodwood. Sir Busker is another who looks solid and a good proposition over a mile on testing ground at Goodwood. He’s yet to prove himself in this company and perhaps the biggest question mark for this horse is his ability to run well in smaller fields.

Duke Of Hazzard is interesting based on his course record of three wins from four starts. He also has a decent enough strike rate at this distance and in small fields. He’s had only one run on softer ground and finished unplaced so that’s the big unknown.

Early favourite Benbatl only really seems to have small field ability in his favour for win purposes whilst Regal Reality is unbeaten at Goodwood but other than that most of the elements that make up this race seem against him.

Positive scores poorly for wins in any of these circumstances except field size, and even a sole victory from three starts in small fields isn’t that great on the face of things. Meanwhile there is little evidence that Urban Icon will be at home in this race.

Digging Deeper

So far we have a very positive profile for Century Dream, a generally positive one for Sir Busker and a big ground question mark over Duke Of Hazzard. It also seems Benbatl and Regal Reality might be worth taking on.

Let’s first look at Duke Of Hazzard’s ground preference as he may be easy to rule out on that basis. Instant Expert is only able to look at runs from the UK and Ireland and a deeper look at Duke Of Hazzard’s form tells us he’s actually run three times on ground softer than good. Two of those runs were perhaps slightly below par but in Group 1 company so finishing unplaced wasn’t a disgrace. He also finished 2nd in a listed race at Deauville on good to soft. It doesn’t look as though he’s hopeless on softer ground and he clearly goes very well at Goodwood but there has to be a suspicion he is at his best on fast ground and it will probably take a near career best to win this.

Are Benbatl and Regal Reality really no hopers in this race despite their odds? Benbatl is the highest rated runner in this field and has largely been contesting Group 1 races over the past few years so having more unplaced efforts isn’t the end of the world. Looking at the ground though, he has been beaten favourite on softer than good on three of his four starts in those conditions (and was well beaten over too far a trip on his other attempt). The worse the ground gets, the worse he performs it seems.

Benbatl also had some worrying stats in races over a mile. Two of his five runs at a mile came on heavy ground. Those runs are relevant here as the going may not be far off heavy but they aren’t poof that he isn’t effective at a mile. He’s won over this trip at Group 2 level in the past so he’s clearly capable of winning this sort of race at this distance but it backs up the suspicion that the ground will be too soft for him.

Regal Reality was an impressive winner last time out over this trip at Group 3 level (good to firm). That was in an 8 runner field which perhaps allays fears he doesn’t act in smaller fields (he does have a poor record when there are 7 or fewer runners). All his wins outside of maiden company have been on good to firm ground though and whilst he’s placed on softer ground it’s worth noting that his only defeat from four runs at Group 3 level came on soft ground. The ground is the main reason to oppose Regal Reality but the fact he’s not won above Group 3 level in eight attempts is also a concern for his backers.

That leaves us with Century Dream and Sir Busker. Century Dream looks extremely solid based on Instant Expert so let’s see if he has any limitations. He’s never run at Goodwood but there is nothing in his profile that suggests he won’t handle the course. Possibly the best evidence we can get is to look at the Instant Expert for this race but from the sires’ perspectives.

Instant Expert Sire Data

Cape Cross’ offspring have run nine times at Goodwood in the past two years producing two winners. That might not seem a massive win ratio but it’s only bettered by Sire Prancelot (sire of Sir Busker) here and even then that’s by just 1%.

Let’s now look at Century Dreams’ defeats in Group company over a mile with cut in the ground. His two career unplaced efforts in these conditions came in an Ascot handicap on good to soft ground where perhaps it wasn’t quite soft enough for him and again at Ascot in a Group 1. In fact this horse has won just once from seven starts at Ascot (33% strike rate elsewhere) so it might not be his ideal course, for all he is Group 1 placed there on soft ground. Away from Ascot his only defeat over mile on softish ground was a 2nd in a listed race at Newmarket.

It would be hard to argue that Century Dream isn’t good enough to win this Group 2. His only run so far at this level was a 4th in the Summer Mile at Ascot on unsuitable good to firm ground. He has won both his starts at Group 3 level comfortably and has previously got within ¾ of a length of Roaring Lion in the QEII stakes at Ascot (possibly not his favourite track).

Can Sir Busker defeat him? He’s been a rapid improver this season, going up 19lbs in just 5 runs and he’s still relatively unexposed at this distance. He was slightly unlucky not to win a competitive handicap last time out off 107 so could easily yet rate higher than his current mark of 111 which leaves him just 4lbs to find on Century Dream. Sir Busker was 2nd here as a 2yo, won a low grade handicap here as a 3yo and his only unplaced effort at this course was in the Golden Mile two starts ago when getting no run on the rail whatsoever.

The main concern with Sir Busker would be his ability to handle small fields. He’s a real hold up performer who needs a decent pace to aim at so it stands to reason he’d generally be better in bigger fields. He has won in 8 and 9 runner fields, albeit off much lower marks in handicaps, but was outpaced in several smaller field races last year (often at shorter trips than this).

The key here to Sir Busker is going to be the early pace.

Celebration Mile Pace Map

Benbatl is likely to lead with Century Dream well placed just off him. It doesn’t look like there will be a strong pace which could inconvenience Sir Busker. If Benbatl ends up being withdrawn because of the ground then there is likely to be an even slower gallop and that pushes things more in the favour of Century Dream and less in the favour of Sir Busker.

They say ‘class horses go on any ground’ but the evidence in this race is that several of these are going to find conditions (not just the ground) against them. Century Dream seems to have everything going for him and Sir Busker is not far behind.

I wouldn’t put anyone off either of these runners who are available at 11/2 and 9/1 respectively at the time of writing. Unfortunately with just 7 runners each way betting is far less attractive. However it could be worth maximising the value from this race by backing both Century Dream and Sir Busker in a reverse forecast.

Trainer No Brainers: The Very Best At York And The Ebor Festival

The racing at York is going to be extremely competitive this week, especially if you are a fan of handicap betting like myself. Rather than trying to pinpoint the single winner of a race (which is going to be very difficult in most cases) it may be more helpful to attempt to narrow the fields down to shortlists of runners that should go well.

After showcasing Roger Charlton’s record in class 2 Newbury handicaps on Saturday I’m going to once again concentrate largely on course records and meeting records here...

First let's see the 20 trainers with the best win percentage (left) and P&L (right) at York since 2009:

We can get more specific again by looking at trainer records in just August since 2009 to see their records at this meeting:

To summarise the above information, the following trainers are of particular interest at York in general:

Charlie Fellowes
William Haggas
Dean Ivory
David Griffiths
Ron Harris
Hugo Palmer
Michael Dods
Mick Hammond
Hughie Morrison
Paul Midgely

And the trainers to pay particular attention to in handicaps at the Ebor Festival are:

Tim Easterby*
Michael Dods*
John Best
Brian Ellison
Nigel Tinkler
Hughie Morrison
Hugo Palmer*
Eve Johnson Houghton
Tony Martin*

Those marked with an * have 3 or more wins to their name so could be more reliable.

So now let’s look at the handicaps over the first two days of the Ebor Festival and see where these trainers have entries:

Wednesday

1.45pm - 5.5f

Michael Dods - Jawwaal
William Haggas - Aplomb
Tim Easterby - Hyperfocus & Copper Knight

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Jawwaal is unbeaten this season and his success at Doncaster on seasonal debut has been well advertised since. He was well drawn when winning at Ascot and has been hit with an 8lb rise in the weights.

Aplomb may find this 5.5f trip perfect having shown decent form over 5f and 6f this season but he’d want some rain to be seen at his absolute best.

The problem with both those runners is the pace bias at York which tends to favour those up with the pace, especially at shorter distances. Tim Easterby’s pair are both likely to be near the pace. Hyperfocus ran only on Sunday and is well handicapped but he’s another who would want a fair bit of rain. If that rain doesn’t arrive Copper Knight could be the most interesting of the quartet. He hasn’t been at his absolute best this season but he hasn’t been running badly either and he’s won four of his eleven starts here, including one off this mark.

3.45pm - 2m

John Best - Eddystone Rock

He has run poorly in both starts this season but is now 1lb lower than when winning this last year. He’s two from three here and the only defeat was a sixth placed finish in the John Smiths Cup in 2017. This looks a hot renewal of this race but if the return to the Knavesmire sparks a return to form he’s capable of going well at a nice price.

4.20pm - 5f

William Haggas - Dancin Inthestreet & Pink Sands
Nigel Tinkler - Princess Power

Dancin Inthestreet is undoubtedly a well handicapped horse on several bits of form this season but her run style is definitely going to mean she’ll have to be very handicapped to win this.

Pink Sands is likely to be much closer to the pace and has never run a bad race. She’ll probably appreciate the return to a more speed favouring track and after just four starts, we have almost certainly not seen the best of her.

Princess Power ran below par on Tuesday at Beverley and may end up a non runner here. She often runs well in defeat but probably wouldn’t be favoured by this speed test.

4.50pm - 6f

Nigel Tinkler - Cobweb Corner
Eve Johnson Houghton - Soldier Lions & The Princes Poet

Cobweb Corner ran well in a similar type of contest last time out and should be near the speed but this is almost certainly tougher than his last race so he’ll have to improve.

Soldier Lions has been 2nd on both starts this season but the form of his last race has had a few knocks. The Princes Poet also seems to have a lot to find but there are so many unknowns in a race of this nature that it wouldn’t be a shock if something suddenly improves.

Thursday

2.45pm - 1m

William Haggas - Montatham

This looks a really hot contest but Montatham is still improving and hopefully there will be enough juice in the ground for him to run after he was withdrawn from the Golden Mile at Goodwood due to fast ground.

Low draws are favoured over this distance so stall 2 is a positive and after this last win at Sandown the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th have all come out and won since.

4.20pm - 7f

William Haggas - Mayaas

Improved on his 2nd start at Ascot, looking very much as if a step up in trip to this 7f would suit. He beat Minzaal that day who has come out and won impressively at Salisbury (well fancied for Friday’s Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes).

4.50pm - 7f

William Haggas - Lawahed
Tim Easterby - Excellent Times
Charlie Fellowes - Lady Of Aran

Lawahed is likely to be a warm favourite here on what could be a good day for William Haggas. She’s well bred and group 1 entered and clearly expected to be better than a rating of 85. That rating is more than deserved from her 3 starts so far but she won’t get an easy lead like last time.

Excellent Times won this at 66/1 last year which will have strongly contributed to Tim Easterby’s P&L in handicaps at this fixture. Has largely struggled since but has run well in three out of five course starts.

Lady Or Aran doesn’t always find as much as looks likely and is probably more consistent on the all weather. She doesn’t look brilliantly handicapped.

Friday

1.45pm - 1m4f

Tim Easterby - Dark Jedi

4.15pm - 1m2.5f

William Haggas - First Kingdom

4.50pm - 1m

William Haggas - Grand Rock & Cold Front & Johan
Michael Dods - Brunch

Saturday

2.25pm - 1m6f

William Haggas - Favorite Moon & A Star Above
Hughie Morrison - Kipps
Hugo Palmer - Eastern Sheriff
Tim Easterby - Fishable

3.40pm - 1m6f

William Haggas - Pablo Escobar & Monica Sheriff
Charlie Fellowes - Jeremiah
Tim Easterby - Glencadam Glory

4.40pm - 1m2.5f

William Haggas - Sinjaari
Tim Easterby - Aasheq
Mick Hammond - Irv

5.10 - 5f

Tim Easterby - Sunday Sovereign

It is by no means a sure thing that the selected trainers are the most likely winners of the races above but they have been amongst those with the best previous records at the course and at this meeting so it will be interesting to see how they get on.

It's a shame that more of the highlighted trainers haven't had runners here this year but we'll hopefully see them with entries at the remaining York fixtures this season.

Trainer Stats Point To Tempus In Mile Handicap

The mile handicap at Newbury staged at 2.25pm on Saturday looks a relatively solvable puzzle with 10 runners set to go to post and plenty of reliable form on offer.

There are some top trainers represented here so let’s see how they have performed in Newbury handicaps over the past 5 years:

Trainer record in Newbury handicaps for trainers represented in this race

As you can see, William Haggas and Roger Charlton not only stand out from a win percentage perspective (30.91% and 26.67% respectively) but they are also the top trainers with representatives in this race when it comes to P&L (48.63 and 22.38 respectively). They are the only two of these trainers to have been profitable to follow blindly in handicaps.

Looking at class 2 handicaps specifically now:

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Trainer record at Newbury in class 2 handicaps

Roger Charlton now jumps ahead of William Haggas with a 38.46% strike rate which is almost 3 times as strong as that of Haggas. Charlton is the only one of these trainers producing a profit in class 2 handicaps at Newbury and a very healthy profit at that (31 win profit).

The data is a bit more limited here but it certainly seems Roger Charlton is sending his better handicappers to Newbury whereas Haggas is mopping up some of the lower grade handicaps.

Let’s take a look at the runners from the Haggas and Charlton yards in this race. William Haggas runs Jahbath whilst Roger Charlton saddles Tempus.

Jahbath is 4 from 5 on the all weather and 0 from 2 on turf but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His turf runs have bookended his career to date with his debut effort coming at Salisbury in a race where he only narrowly lost out to Clara Peeters who would go on to rate in the high 80s. He was conceding experience and 6lbs on that day so it was clearly a strong effort.

His most recent turf run came after a 476 day break and although beaten more than 5 lengths, he was a creditable enough 4th on soft ground at Haydock over this one mile trip. How much he’ll improve with that run under his belt on slightly better ground is difficult to gauge.

Tempus hasn’t run for 302 days which is an unknown so it’s worth comparing Roger Charlton’s record with fresh horses in handicaps with his overall handicap record.

Roger Charlton's record in handicaps since 2009 with runners returning from a 60+ day break

Roger Charlton's record in handicaps since 2009 with all runners

 

Since 2009 Roger Charlton has had 294 handicap runners returning from a 60+ day break and they have produced a 16.67% win rate and a 50.18 win P&L. Comparing that to all his handicap runners in this time, the strike rate is slightly improved at 17.95% but the P&L is –48.43. The market is clearly underestimating Roger Charlton horses after a break. It’s worth noting of course that a 302 day break is pretty extreme and the horse has obviously had some issues keeping him off the track.

Tempus has only had one run in handicap company and that was a slightly disappointing 4th, beaten 1.5 lengths at Wolverhampton over their extended mile. He had previously beaten Lyndon B, subsequently rated 97, giving that horse 6lbs. Given Tempus only has a mark of 91 it’s probably a fair assumption that the most recent run wasn’t his best form and whatever issue caused him to miss 10 months of racing probably affected him during that race.

Roger Charlton’s record in Newbury handicaps, and Newbury class 2 handicaps in particular, are quite enlightening. The fact that the market seems to be offering value on his runners after a break adds confidence to the feeling that Tempus might be underestimated here. His most recent turf effort, in testing conditions, suggests he is well handicapped and he could take all the beating in this race on Saturday afternoon, which is live on ITV Racing.

Weekend Racing Preview: Scorching Pace Likely In 7f Handicap

It might not be a vintage day of racing on Saturday but there are plenty of competitive handicaps to get stuck into. One of the more interesting races of the day, which unfortunately won’t be on terrestrial television, is the 7f handicap at Haydock being run at 3.50pm.

Haydock is well known for receiving plenty of rainfall so there is fairly limited data available for handicaps of this field size run on the forecast good to firm ground. When there is limited data the PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) is particularly useful. There isn’t a whole lot in it but it seems preferable to be drawn low or high rather than in the middle over 7f on fast ground at Haydock. Just 15.63% of placed runners have come from the middle third of the draw.

As far as pace advantage over this course and distance is concerned, on fast ground we are again dealing with slightly limited data but it seems anywhere but prominent is ideal for win purposes. Prominent racers have yielded zero winners from 24 runs in qualifying races. The best place to be positioned could be mid division with a level stakes profit of £3.50 for those runners. It’s worth bearing in mind though that win ratios can be misleading with limited data and when looking at the place data for the same qualifying races it’s actually very even and slightly favours those ridden prominently.

Haydock 7f Good to Firm Pace Stats

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One of the best features of Geegeez Gold is the ability to compare both pace and draw simultaneously. The draw pace heat map (using PRB data) for races of these conditions again backs up the assumption that middle draws are less favourable and that a high draw might be more favourable than low unless you are likely to be held up in the rear, in which case low is better than high.

Haydock draw heat map

With no strong data regarding pace advantage it’s best to concentrate on how each individual race is likely to be run and that’s what makes this race more interesting than many on Saturday.

Haydock 7f pace map

With three possible front runners here we are likely to see contested speed and that should swing things in favour of those held up in mid division or the rear. That leaves the entirety of the remaining field with no recognised prominent racers. As previously discussed those drawn in the middle could be seen at a disadvantage which would be bad news for Irreverent, Young Fire, Dutch Decoy and Arbalet, who are drawn 5,6,7 and 8 respectively.

Indian Creak form

Indian Creak's run at Sandown has produced a 0% subsequent win ratio and just a 25% place ratio.

Of those drawn lower, War Glory is drawn lowest of all but has only won once in 30 attempts on turf and probably needs a stiffer test. Indian Creak is drawn in stall 2 but has been well enough beaten in both starts this season and whilst his 7th in a 7f handicap last month at Sandown might look okay form on first inspection, the Geegeez future form display tells us that 11 runners have come out of that race and all been beaten since. Cold Stare completes the low drawn runner list who should be ridden with patience but all his form is on soft ground.

So what about those drawn higher? The remaining runners are Triggered (drawn 9) and Northernpowerhouse (drawn 10). Triggered is likely to be held up in the rear and based on the data we have he would probably have been better off with a low draw assuming the same tactics are used again. He hasn’t been seen to best effect this season and is stepping up to 7f for the first time. He’ll need to improve for the trip to figure but on the way he runs that’s very possible.

Northernpowerhouse seems to have plenty in his favour with a high draw and a fast pace forecast. He is generally held up in mid division rather than right at the rear of the field so has an ideal draw on that basis. He seemed to improve over the winter on the all weather and was clearly not expected to transfer that improvement to turf when sent off a relatively unconsidered 22/1, despite being a last time out winner, at Redcar in June. He proved those odds wrong though with a narrow win. That wasn’t the strongest of contests in hindsight but many of his races have worked out well, particularly his most recent all weather win where he beat five runners who would win on one of their next two starts.

Last time out Northernpowerhouse was beaten 8.5 lengths but he was badly squeezed up on that occasion and whilst he wasn’t going well enough to win that day, he may well have reached the placings. The faster ground here may also be in his favour.

Stewards’ Cup 2020 Preview: Recent Evidence Suggests Low Means Go

The Stewards’ Cup is one of those races that many punters will file under ‘impossible’ each year but as is often the case, Geegeez Gold can be used to narrow down the field significantly and highlight the best angles.

Low or High Draws In This Cavalry Charge?

As usual, pace and draw are going to be key here. Statistically speaking a low draw has been a huge advantage in 16+ runner 6f handicaps at Goodwood run on good to firm ground.

Goodwood Stewards' Cup Draw

Nine of the last thirteen qualifying races have been won by horses running from the lowest third of the draw whilst the middle and high draws have accounted for just two winners each. These win figures are backed up by place and PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) figures, admittedly less comprehensively, suggesting that we really want to concentrate on low drawn runners here.

Digging deeper into the exact stalls successful runners have emerged from; stall 1 has been most successful with three winners whilst stalls 1-6 have provided nine of the thirteen winners from qualifying contests, despite stall 2 contributing none of those wins.

Detailed Goodwood Draw Stats

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Relying on win figures only can sometimes be misleading, especially with small samples, so let’s look at the places. Again, the low stalls have dominated with thirty-three of the fifty-two placings going to horses drawn stall 12 or lower and twenty-three of those coming from the lowest seven stalls. Stall 1 has not only been most successful in terms of wins (three), it’s also seen the joint most placings alongside stall 3 (six).

So how well found are these low drawn winners and placers in the market? Nine stalls have produced an each way profit in these qualifying races and five of those were in the lowest seven stalls. Three of the four most profitable stalls were 7, 1 and 3, with stall 7 most profitable of all with an each way LSP of 20.75 and it’s interesting that all of that profit came from the place returns.

So to summarise, it’s not impossible to win from any draw (even stall 23 has a win) but it seems a big advantage for win and place purposes to be in the lowest seven stalls.

Extreme Rides Keep You Out Of Trouble

So what about pace?

Goodwood 6f Pace Stats

Backing front runners in qualifying races has been a profitable angle with an LSP of 3.00. The least profitable angle has been backing horses that race in mid division, they have produced an LSP of -72.00. This is likely to be down to those runners often being boxed in when the race develops with plenty of ground still to make up. Whereas those held up right at the back have more to do but get more options in choosing their path to progress. The place and draw heat map backs this up with most places coming from low drawn horses who either lead or are held up in the rear.

Stewards' Cup Pace Map

There is possible contested speed in this race.

Stewards' Cup 2020 Pace Map

The low drawn horses are likely to be led by Meraas, one of just two 3yos in the race . The classic generation have accounted for three of the last five winners of this race from just eleven runners and those winners all came from the lowest four stalls.

Aljady could take the higher drawn horses along. Meraas is drawn in stall 4 and his only defeat in four starts this season came on soft ground, which he certainly won’t encounter here. It’s worth noting that Call Me Ginger, who was 2nd to Meraas last time out, runs in the consolation race earlier in the card and a good run for him would be a strong pointer towards Meraas.

There are three runners drawn 7 or lower who are likely to be held up and they are Kimifive (1), Gulliver (3) and Venturous (7). Kimifive was 10th in this race last year off the same mark when drawn high, Gulliver was 6th last year from a low draw when rated 7lbs lower. Both will be ridden by talented claimers (Cieran Fallon and Angus Villiers respectively). Venturous ran in the consolation race last year and finished 2nd off a 4lb lower mark. His last two wins have come over 5f and he didn’t seem to quite see it out a year ago so could be vulnerable again for win purposes at least.

Hot Form Worth Following

Of the trio Kimifive appeals off the same mark as last year. His only run over this trip since last year’s race has worked out well when 2nd to Barbill.

Geegeez Future Form

The Geegeez Future Form indicator shows the 3rd and 4th have both won on their next starts whilst even the well beaten 5th, Sir Maximillian, ran very well in a tough York handicap up in trip. It’s worth noting that Barbill also runs in this race but he’s drawn in stall 21 which may compromise his chance.