It's September 26th, and as a precursor to something called Oc-tote-ber - a series of posts and interactive ideas I have lined up for next month - I thought I'd spin through Friday's 'Silver Cambridgeshire' card from a placepot perspective. I will of course highlight anything I like for the win along the way. Be warned, though, I'm not in the greatest of form right now... but I'm hoping that will change very soon!
We get underway with an interesting mile Listed race for fillies and mares. Johnny G has Belle d'Or, a filly who won a Listed event last time on just her third career start. It is fair to say that the form is not working out - eight subsequent runners have yet to make the frame between them - but that's not to take anything from the winner who was green and ran on to nab the spoils on the line.
She'll come on again for that, and is already just a pound off the top of the ratings tree here. With Amulet and perhaps Etaab likely to go on, I'd expect William Buick to try to get some cover in behind that pair, and have first run as they come out of the dip. And it could be as simple as that.
If the layoff betrays a problem with her, then one which might pick up the slack at a price is Zibelena. Charlie Appleby's Godolphin filly hasn't run badly in two starts this year, and was beaten less than five lengths by the smart French lass, Fintry, the last day. Zibelena was good enough to win a Group 3 last year, but evades a penalty. With her trainer in flying form, 8/1 looks a decent each way play.
Another Listed fillies' and mares' race, this time over a mile and a half. Three year olds have a stellar record, taking twelve of the last sixteen (75%) from 62% of the runners. This time, exactly half of the fourteen strong field is that age, and they look the segment in which to focus.
Still, that leaves us with the top six in the betting in what is an extremely open looking heat. Sir Michael Stoute has won this four times since 2000, and maybe his 11/1 chance Long View is worth chancing. She's had just three runs so far, and the fact that the only win was in a Class 5 Brighton maiden may not inspire confidence. But Sir Michael does not usually force his string into bouts in which they cannot be competitive, so it could be seen as a positive that he trusts her here.
Sir Michael has had winners at 12/1 and 10/1 in this race too, and Long View - a winner by five lengths last time - is worth chancing with the ubiquitous positive that is Ryan Moore up top.
Of those with more obvious form credentials, Johnny G saddles Criteria, a filly who gets the combination of decent ground and a mile and a half for the first time since a 3/4 length third in the Group 2 Ribblesdale. A repeat of that would probably be enough, and she has legitimate excuses the last twice.
Specifically, she looked like she failed to stay over the 1m7f trip last time, and may have resented the deepish sod too, in the Park Hill Stakes; and although Criteria was beaten five lengths into second the time before, the rest were nine lengths and more further back, so she may have just 'bumped into one'.
Queen Of Ice is in the same Cheveley Park Stud ownership as Criteria, and I'd expect her to make the running, perhaps abetted by Familliarity. That could set things up for a handily ridden alternative, and the two named above both fit that bill.
A seven furlong Group 2, again for the fairer sex only, and I have a similar view to the market. That view is that if Lucida runs to the level of her close Moyglare Stud second to Cursory Glance, and if that race hasn't left its mark on her, then she'll win. She's rated 109 in Ireland, and given Cursory Glance's 112 peg, that looks at least fair if not slightly lenient.
It's fair to say that if I was in better form, I'd probably be piling in, as I think she ought to be an odds on shot and she's available as big as 5/4, having been bashed up from 7/4 already.
She has only had three runs, which gives her more scope than most of her rivals to progress, too. Exceptions to that comment include Karl Burke's What Say You, and Barry Hill's Fadhayyil, with just two career starts apiece.
Burke's filly won a small Newmarket maiden last time from which the third, Lady Of Dubai, has gone on to win subsequently. This is a big step up in class and she's meeting a proven Group 1 performer so, despite her obvious upside, she's a place play at best.
Fadhayyil won a Class 3 maiden at Salisbury, but the time was moderate and none of the five horses to emerge from that race have even made the frame (notwithstanding that none of that quintet were in the first five home in the Salisbury race).
And at the prices, Tigrilla might tempt some each way. She's no 16/1 shot despite running poorly last time.
But Lucida is banker material in my opinion.
The Joel Stakes looks a cracker. It's a fourteen runner mile Group 2, and the field is headed by the rapidly improving Captain Cat, your friend and mine. Although three year olds still get a bit of weight from their elders, it's interesting to note that none has won this in the past six years, and only three 3yo's have won it since 2001.
As much as I love Captain Cat, I'm just not sure this suits his stalk and pounce running style. He's more of a turn of pace type than an end to end galloper and I think this straight mile with a true gallop could just find him out. I might be wrong on that, and I'd be happy enough to be as well because I really like him. But I'm opposing the Cat here and hoping he still goes for the Breeders Cup, for which his price would rise, and he'd still be optimally suited by the tight bends and the quickening pace in the short Santa Anita straight.
Tullius is the one I like. Andrew Balding's stable stalwart has been off for 101 days, but has gone well in the past off a layoff (form of 11102 after 60+ days off), so should not want for fitness. His last two runs have both been creditable defeats (second and fourth) in Group 1 company, and both were over straight mile courses.
With Custom Cut and/or Penitent as well as Ocean Tempest probable trail blazers, his hold up style shouldn't compromise his chance too much and, though the QEII Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day may be his ultimate target, he'll be ready for this.
Wannabe Yours rates a big danger. Just five runs into his career, Johnny G's three year old has progressed at a mighty rate of knots. Two promising runs in maidens last term gave way to a hat-trick of wins this, taking in a Class 5 maiden, a Class 2 handicap, and a Group 3 last time, where he saw off Hors De Combat by a neck.
Top rated on figures is Outstrip, and I can't quite work this fellow out. On the face of it, two close up defeats by Kingman give him every chance. But both were dawdle-then-sprint affairs, and Outstrip was actually last of four in the second of them, the Sussex Stakes. I gave him the benefit of the doubt in the first of them, the St James's Palace Stakes, but I'm just not sure he's trained on this term. He's another horse I like, and I won't be too upset if he proves me wrong, but there's not enough meat in his price to justify the punt.
Nope, it's Tullius for me, with Wannabe Yours and Captain Cat making the placepot ticket.
The boys' mile and a half Listed race, with eight slated to face the starter. The key horse is serial loser, and St Leger fourth (yes, I backed him each way for that race), Windshear. He has all the class to win this, and looked as though the trip got the better of him last time. But. But... he just seems to find ways not to win. Of course, for a placepot, he looks like banker material, unless that Leger effort has bottomed him out (entirely possible).
I actually have the feeling that this race will make the placepot. Here's why: first, I expect one of them to come out, meaning seven runners and only two places. Second, I can envisage Windshear failing to make the first two after some hard races in defeat. And third, I don't trust Derby fifth and second favourite, Red Galileo, to make the frame either.
If that's right, then we could be on for an upset. Chances are I'm wrong, but I'll be playing the 'conspiracy' cards in case.
Penglai Pavilion has been hopeless in three runs this term. Fifth in Treve's Arc last year, he has run last on his two most recent starts. But he's been off for four months since, and has been gelded in that time too. Trainer Charlie Appleby reports the horse to be in good form and, while he'd like a bit of rain, he is offering no excuses for poor performance on good turf. If Penglai can find his form of last year, he'd be bang there in this, and 10/1 is big enough to take a chance, given the horse's changes since he last ran.
Ayrad is another interesting one. He's having his fifth career start, and steps up in trip from ten furlongs for the first time. Bred for the Classic trip (by Dalakhani out of a Sadler's Wells mare), he could show a fair bit more for the greater stamina test. The Varian/Atzeni axis has been bombproof all season, and this chap has a Group 1 entry later in the year.
And Harris Tweed will bid to make all, a tactic he's employed to great effect throughout his career. Whether he's got one last trick in his bag is moot, but he's placepot material all the same.
This could be straightforward if Windshear runs his race, or it could leave a lot of people scratching their heads if he doesn't. I'll be playing both ends, and obviously hoping for a smidge of carnage.
Incredibly, leg six of the placepot is an impenetrable juvenile maiden run over seven furlongs. This is a case of taking a wide sweep and hoping you hit with one of the raggier elements in the dragnet. And I make no apology for such an unsophisticated approach!
Perhaps market vibes will reveal more but, at time of writing (Thursday night), there's no market so no vibes. One that the market will probably overlook, and may not be right so to do, is Martyn Meade's Navigate. This chap ran fifth of 13 on his only start, and flashed good speed for a fair way there. He'll come on for it and the time was above average. Despite not having scored a winner from his seven runners in the past fortnight, Meade has hit the board with four of them, perfect for us placepot plunderers.
Of the more mainstream handlers, JG's Nota Cambiata will bound forward from his first run, a - granted, rather listless - ten length sixth of seven over a mile. Dropping back to seven this time, he may not have been imbued with the stamina that many In The Wings mares pass on.
I'm always happy to overlook Sir Michael Stoute debutants. Consort won't see the stick even if it means being beaten in a close finish, such is Sir Michael's penchant for education on first run, and if one of his is good enough to win first up it's normally pretty good.
Indeed, a quick check reveals - I think - that the coy knight has saddled just one first time out winner since 23rd September last year. That horse, Provenance, won on 6th May, and 48 horses have been beaten on their Stoutey debuts since then, with 25 beaten before him and since this time last year. Yikes. (Cue marauding victory for Consort!)
I'll be lobbing in a couple of market movers once there is a market, and something in it moves!
Leg 1: A - 5 B - 3
Leg 2: A - 9 B - 13
Leg 3: A - 5
Leg 4: A - 1, 7, 14
Leg 5: A - 8 B - 2, 5, 6
Leg 6: A - 8, 9, FAV
All A's = 1 x 1 x 1 x 3 x 1 x 3 = 9 bets
All A's and B's = 2 x 2 x 1 x 3 x 4 x 3 = 144 bets
A-B Part Perm
And finally, a bit self-indulgent this, I'd like to wish my son, Leonardo, a happy second birthday. He's been a constant source of joy to me and Mrs Matt, and we're very proud of him. I consider myself very lucky that scribbling for the fine people who read this 'ere blog, and who subscribe to the Gold project that has been growing for about the same period, allows me to spend mornings and evenings with young man.
He's a cheeky blighter as you might expect, especially if you know his mum!
Happy Birthday Leon!!