With so many national hunt meetings being lost to the weather at the moment it seems best to play it safe this weekend with an all weather preview. Fortunately there is a good card at Lingfield including a class 2 handicap over a mile and that is going to be the subject of this preview.
It’s typically an advantage to be nearer the pace at most courses and that’s certainly the case over this course and distance in this kind of field size.
Leaders at Lingfield over a mile have been profitable to follow blind, producing a WIN PL of 38.22. Win percentage, place percentage and IV all steadily drop off the further back in the field you go which is a clear sign that the nearer you are to the pace here the better.
Although hold up horses have a poor record here with a win percentage of 10.1% and a place percentage of 30.01%, in terms of bare figures they provide almost as many winners as any other run style and more places than any other run style (from more runners admittedly). So although seemingly disadvantaged by the course, the frame will often contain at least one or two hold up performers. There are certain hold up horses that are particularly suited to Lingfield, those speedy ones with a great turn of foot, as opposed to the grinders that prefer big fields and long straights. If you can distinguish between the two you can find the better bets amongst those likely to be ridden patiently.
Just as important as the course pace characteristics is the pace of the individual race.
This certainly shouldn’t be run at a crawl with the likes of Papa Stour and Corazon Espinado in the field. The pair were both ridden with a little more restraint last time out but had led on their previous three racecourse appearances.
Fox Power has led in the past but not for over a year. He is consistently ridden handily these days and a repeat of those tactics looks likely.
Crownthorpe and Intuitive look likely to be at the rear of the field early with both tending to held up in the majority of their races.
I studied some Lingfield one mile handicaps earlier in the all weather season and came to the conclusion there was no strict draw bias over this distance. In 8 runner fields, according to PRB (Percentage of Rivals Beaten), there is a very slight disadvantage to the middle draws and seemingly an even smaller advantage with those that break from the higher stalls, despite those runners having to track across to the rail before the bend.
The win percentages suggest low is slightly better than high (middle still at a slight disadvantage) whilst the place percentages, which give us more data than the win percentages, increase slightly the higher you are drawn.
Overall there is very little in it and if there is a draw bias, it is negligible.
Pace and Draw Combination
Just because there is no strict draw bias it doesn’t mean that certain run styles aren’t advantaged or disadvantaged by the draw. What is a good draw for some run styles can often be a disadvantage for others.
The above tells us that the draw doesn’t make much difference for front runners, prominent racers or even hold up performers but it does make a lot of difference for those that race in mid division. It could just be a fluke of data (although we have a decent sample size here using PRB) and low drawn mid division horses seem to have a good record with a PRB of 0.57 whereas high drawn mid division has a PRB of just 0.38. It is probably the case that high drawn runners are able to get closer to the rail with other run styles but are forced to take a wider course and cover more ground if they are both wide drawn and settle in mid division.
With just 8 runners set to go to post we can have a good look at the chances of each runner. Here they are in order of their early odds, from most fancied to least fancied.
This is probably the horse the race revolves around. He’s looked a bit of an all weather specialist to date with defeats on all four of his turf starts but a record of 11321133 on UK all weather surfaces (was also unplaced on dirt in Dubai).
Those form figures look even more impressive when you look at the defeats. The first two came just behind Alkaraama who has since rated 17lbs and 14lbs higher than those two runs. The most recent defeats came behind the progressive Ghlayoon when Intuitive was poorly placed and also behind the hat trick completing Misty Grey. What makes that last performance look all the better is that Intuitive was once again poorly placed but ran on well into 3rd after having to be switched and the 2nd, 4th and 8th from that race have all come out and won since.
There is no doubt that Intuitive remains a well handicapped horse but this will be his first run at a mile and simply staying on late over 7f isn’t enough to prove that this trip will suit. The horse’s sire, Haatef, has a win strike rate of 9.69% with all his flat runners and that drops only slightly to 8.51% over this mile trip. The dam was a 7.5f winner and the only other offspring from her has run well as a 2yo over 7f so there are plenty of pointers that suggests this mile trip should be within his reach, especially with Lingfield being a speed favouring track.
A very brief look at Fox Power’s form figures over the past year or two might not suggest he has a favourite’s chance in this but digging deeper shows he’s probably a well handicapped horse.
He hasn’t won since taking a listed contest at Newcastle in April 2019 but he’s clearly had a couple of issues since and seems to be working his way back to form again. After that listed win he was off the track for 237 days before finishing a 1.5 lengths 4th at Chelmsford off a mark of 100. He had the run of the race that day but it was a respectable effort.
Between that run and March he would race three more times, running okay in defeat each time but not looking like a winner waiting to happen off a mark of 99 or 100.
He would then spend another 102 days off the track before reappearing in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, a race in which he was well beaten. He was then well beaten again twice over 10f on turf before finishing 4th off a mark of 94 over the extended 9f at Wolverhampton. The 2nd and 3rd have both won off higher marks since then and Fox Power was closer to the pace than ideal that day so he’s not badly handicapped now off 93.
The main problem for Fox Power may be the surface. On turf he has failed to win in seven attempts, on polytrack he has failed to place in two runs whilst on tapeta his form figures are 131244. His only run at Lingfield was at 7f and although he was only beaten just 2.25 lengths he was last of six runners having gone through the race well but finding disappointingly little. He’s unlikely to run terribly but he looks a better horse on tapeta and could be much more interesting in the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton in a couple of months’ time (a race in which he was 4th off 6lbs higher last year) rather than this.
A change to slightly more patient tactics and a drop in class seemed to pay dividends last time out when winning a class 5 handicap by 5 lengths. He won a class 3 handicap a year ago off 85 so isn’t necessarily out of it here off 87 but this is likely to be much tougher off a career high mark (he’s been beaten on all six runs off 86 or 87). He is previously proven over this distance but with this being a furlong further than last time, three classes higher and his mark being 9lbs higher he’s no guarantee to run to the same level again.
A major positive for the horse is his record when running within 10 days of his previous run. He’s won three from four in those circumstances and on that basis should be considered at least very competitive here, for all he might not be handicapped to win.
A last time out winner at Southwell and at his best on soft ground or on the all weather. His latest win was off 90 and he’s won off 91 in the past but he’s been beaten in all seven runs off 92 or higher.
The surface is clearly very important to this horse and it was no great surprise that he took to Southwell’s fibresand last time out given his liking for deep ground. Ignoring a run at Newcastle where his jockey fell off exiting the stalls, his all weather form figures now read 332131. However his two biggest losses, distance wise, have come in his two starts at Lingfield where he has finished 3rd twice in fields of seven and five (beaten 3.25 lengths or further in both races).
As previously mentioned Lingfield can suit those turn of foot horses rather than grinders and Crownthorpe may be a bit more of a grinder, less suited to Lingfield than other venues. He’s not terribly handicapped but this course and handicap mark may well catch him out with third or fourth place seeming most likely here.
One of two here for Stuart Williams and perhaps surprising that he is slightly more favoured early than his stablemate Papa Stour.
Lord Rapscallion will be having just his second start for Williams having moved from Johnny Murtagh in November. On his stable debut he ran a respectable 4th in a Kempton listed contest at 50/1, although given the distances he was beaten by horses rated 105, 109 and 104 he didn’t look to run beyond his mark of 102. He was 2nd in Ireland in a competitive 7f handicap in September off 101 but it's worth noting that the majority of his best runs during the flat season (where he rose 14lbs in the ratings) were under a strong partnership with rider Nikita Kane who had a huge claim. He’s probably never run to a three figure rating for any other jockey and without a claim here he could be vulnerable, for all he has the talents of Cieren Fallon on board.
Papa Stour is the main pace angle here and he’s seemingly a bit better on polytrack than he is on tapeta (last four runs on polytrack have produced form figures of 1112, last four runs on tapeta have produced form figures of 6628) so Lingfield may well suit him on his debut here. He is probably at his very best around Chelmsford though which suits his front running style extremely well.
His recent form has been strong. He won three starts ago at Kempton off a 3lb lower mark, beating a next time out winner in Diocles Of Rome, so he’s not handicapped out of this off 91. He’s probably vulnerable to something a bit more progressive but there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t run very well, especially if Corazon Espinado allows him an uncontested lead.
Possibly equally good at 6f and 7f which does raise some question marks over the suitability of 1m on just his 2nd attempt at the distance (previous go was his 2nd start on a racecourse when finishing 4th in a novice race). He was a couple of lengths ahead of Intuitive behind Ghalyoon at Chelmsford in November and is now 1lb better off but Mohareb was seen to much better effect that day than Intuitive and isn’t as likely to back that up over the extra distance, for all there are stamina doubts over Intuitive too.
He was below par last time out here at Lingfield and although he is probably in with a small chance here, and may well out run his odds, it would be a surprise if he’s well enough handicapped or strong enough in the finish over this trip to get his head in front.
Difficult to weigh up on his debut for Marco Botti having previously raced in Italy. A mark of 100 does seem fairly stiff for what he has recently achieved and he’s probably going to need to drop a bit in the handicap before being competitive.
Given the doubts about Fox Power and Crownthorpe on this surface I’m inclined to think the win shortlist should be Intuitive, Corazon Espinado and Papa Stour. I don’t think the latter is well enough handicapped to win this but his record with a very recent run is worrying if looking to oppose him.
Intuitive and Papa Stour definitely look better handicapped and if going off the pace data you’d be much more inclined to back Papa Stour, who is likely to lead, rather than Intuitive who is likely to be settled in last. However Intuitive looks to have the turn of foot that will make him ideally suited to this course and he’s likely to be a fast finisher in the straight. He’s unproven both at Lingfield and at a mile so is risky at the price but there is more upside to this one than anything else and two and those question marks may well still turn out to be positives rather than negatives. Intuitive therefore gets the nod for a small bet ahead of Papa Stour who still has another handicap in him and Corazon Espinado who is probably best of those who have raced at Lingfield before.