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Well this is all rather frustrating. A small profit on the A ticket yesterday, with all six winners as well! The cumulative odds for those were 4,328/1, yet the placepot dividend was a miserly £28. That's just how it is at the moment, and it's to be hoped the sequence changes (and for the better!) soon.
Newbury today, and an challenging set of puzzles.
1.50 - Leg 1: We kick off with a two year old maiden over seven furlongs, and three unraced horses fill the first four morning market positions. That makes life unpredictable somewhat..!
Hills have obviously laid a decent bet on God Willing, the Ed Dunlop newcomer, as they go 3/1 about a horse available at 11/2 (as I write) elsewhere. It's ridden by Harry Bentley and that's immediately enough to put me off. His stats betray the general media feeling that he's a fine jockey, and he's certainly not to my tastes. He'll almost certainly win now, of course!
Then there's the Ryan Moore-ridden, Sir Michael Stoute-trained Eye Contact. It was pointed out to me a little while ago that Stoute debutants very rarely get hit with the whip and that's something I've seen to be quite true as a general rule. Therefore, this lad will have to be good enough to contend without the persuader. Obviously, connections are massively respected, and Stoute did win a division of this with a first time starter in 2011. But he won't be the firmest ridden in the race.
If experience is to make the difference then Clive Cox's Raise Your Gaze is the most apparent player. He ran fairly well in a Class 5 maiden at Sandown last time, and will be straighter here. The market speaks very well in his favour.
Eve Johnson Houghton also has a once raced entry, What About Carlo, and he too has been wagered this morning. Part owned by the late Mel Smith, this one missed the start last time, but made a good mid-race move to get involved before paying for those exertions at the business end. That form looks solid and it will be poignant for connections if he's able to oblige.
There have been bits and pieces of money all the way down the card, testament to the unknown nature of things, and I'm taking a bit of a chance by limping in here.
A - 8 (Raise Your Gaze), 11 (What About Carlo)
2.20 - Leg 2: More unraced mysteries in the second division, and this time I'm taking an even bigger chance by banking on the first timer, Zerfaal, on A. Trained by Johnny G, this home bred son of Dubawi has some fancy entries (Dewhurst, Racing Post Trophy, Derby) and clearly he is thought a capable beast.
I think I'll shore things up slightly with another Clive Cox runner, Winter Spice. This fellow has a race to his name, albeit not an especially enticing one. But he was given a very gentle introduction there, and there has been plenty of support for him this time. He could be an interesting dark horse if the result goes the way of rags.
A - 10 (Zerfaal)
B - 8 (Winter Spice)
2.50 - Leg 3: A high class rogues' gallery for this seven runner claiming race. Five of the seven are rated 80+ and all are 71 or higher: not bad for a Class 5 contest worth just two and a half grand to the winner.
Balducci is very 'well in' at the weights, and David O'Meara has again booked Kieren Fallon for this second start for the yard. The first start? Well that can be pretty much written off, given that it was on soft ground, a surface he'd never previously encountered. Back on a more bouncing turf surface, he should go close.
Next best is Balty Boys, a very good two year old, who never quite got to grips with the three year old improvers last year. This season, some leniency from the handicapper has seen him prevail again, although the balance of his form does seem a little patchy. All being well, however, he is very well treated against most of these and, while I think Balducci looks a fair bet, Balty Boys may not be too far behind him.
A - 2 (Balducci)
B - 3 (Balty Boys)
3.20 - Leg 4: A staying handicap where the three year olds get a juicy weight concession from their elders of eleven pounds. Mark Johnston is one of a couple of trainers that seem notably adept at exploiting the weight for age rule in middle distance handicaps, and I almost backed his Statutory last night. The reason I didn't was because I missed the price (11/4 early, now 2/1 best). Despite not backing him since the value's gone (I may go in if he drifts to 5/2 in the on course market), I think he's the most likely winner and hits my tickets accordingly.
Top weight, Continuum, has only had four runs - all this season - despite being a four-year-old. He's progressed from run to run, and could continue that momentum over an extra quarter mile.
A few of the others have chances too, including the rag, Uriah Heep, who might do well in handicap hurdles over the winter for his shrewd trainer, Alan King (also owns him currently too).
A - 1 (Continuum), 6 (Statutory)
3.55 - Leg 5: A Listed race for two year olds over five furlongs. I banked on Wind Fire and had a decent bet on her too when she flopped last time, and I'm a little wary having been bitten there. However, she's dropping in both class and distance, and that should see her run well. Lilbourne Lass has been a fantastic buy, having won over sixty grand already and she deserves this grade increment. With three places to go at, though, I'm trying to get her out of the frame as she'll be a very popular selection.
Abbakova raids from Ireland for unfashionable connections, and that's a recipe I like in the context of a race like this. She's battled hardened, looks to be pace agnostic, and has a pleasantly progressive profile. A short break should have freshened her up for this, and I wish the Dundalk Racing Club, in whose colours she runs, good luck.
Autumns Blush, running in the Krypton Factor silks of Fawzi Nass, takes a giant step up here from a Class 5 maiden at Yarmouth to a Newbury Listed event. That in itself is a pointer to the regard in which she must be held, as Jeremy Noseda is not a renowned windmill-tilter.
In a race where it's entirely possible that Lilbourne Lass will be placed and scupper my fancy-pants plans, I'm taking three against her across A and B.
A - 9 (Wind Fire)
B - 1 (Abbakova), 2 (Autumns Blush)
4.30 - Leg 6: We wind down with a six furlong sprint for three year olds, and it's wide open to my eye. Assembly showed significant improvement to win last time, but that was in a Yarmouth maiden handicap and that's about as bad a race as you can get. True, he's capable of improving again, but that's something he'll have to do even from his lowly perch in this.
Grand Denial looks much more solid. Consistent at this level, he's been placed in six of his seven starts, and was fourth on the other one, last time out. That was in a decent race for the grade at Ascot, and he ought to get competitive in this.
Jontleman is a seasoned campaigner with eleven runs to his name already this year. He's been first or second on five of those eleven runs and that includes a narrow defeat in this class and at this trip last month.
Aye Aye Skipper is a bit in and out, but when he's good - as he was last time, winning a Newmarket handicap over this distance - he's well up to this sort of level. The six pound penalty he's incurred for that win is less than ideal, though, and may just anchor him this time. Secret Missile looks better at five than six and is opposable for me on that basis.
Panther Patrol catches the eye. Winner of back-to-back all weather handicaps, the latter in Class 4, he was then stepped up to Class 2 on the turf and was well beaten. A drop to Class 3 elicited no better, but last time out - down in Class 5 - he ran a strange race before claiming silver. He's unexposed on turf and might sneak into the podium positions once more.
Hartwright drops back to six furlongs after being outstayed and, in truth, outclassed the last day. He also drops down in grade and might return to his formerly consistent ways.
A - 4 (Grand Denial), 8 (Jontleman)
B - 2 (Hartwright), 7 (Panther Patrol)
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