Newmarket July Meeting 2014: Day 3 Preview, Tips
Day two was a washout in more ways than one, but we're made of sterner stuff here and, though it promises to be as tricky on Saturday, every race has a winner and our job is to track them down... The prognosis is for soft ground, and that will form the basis for the ponderings posited in this post.
2.05 Handicap (Class 2) 1m
We get started with a mile handicap and sixteen are slated to run. The chances of four places being paid out however are slightly worse than the chances of me riding the last winner. Yes, Saturday's card looks destined to be riddled with non-runners.
Those with win or placed form on soft ground are Legend Rising, You're Fired, Idea, Lesha and Roachdale House. That's not to say the others can't win - many of them have yet to encounter ground this soft - but we at least know that the short list should not be troubled by the ground.
Legend Rising did me and geegeez readers a big favour when sluicing through the mud at Chester earlier in the season, but he's six pounds higher here. Still, he was only beaten three lengths in the hyper-competitive Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot, and his record on softer than good is 111. He looks very likely to be involved at the business end.
You're Fired is at the bottom end of the handicap, and was third on his sole soft ground start. He then won on good to soft, but the ground is not the concern with him. Rather, it's the fact that he's stepping up two grades in class, and a furlong in trip. As a lightly raced progressive sort, it's possible he can overcome those elevations but he's far from the only lightly raced progressive sort in the field, and 7/1 is too short for my tastes.
Idea won her maiden on soft, but was well seen off at Royal Ascot and is unlikely to be one of Sir Michael Stoute's leading lights. She's another whose price is lower than her chance to my eye. And, while Lesha has won on good to firm and heavy, he's stepping up markedly in class and looks to have less scope than most of the field.
That leaves Roachdale House of the proven mudders. He's stepping back up to a mile having run midfield on his prior two attempts. The first of that pair was a reasonable effort, and the second was on good to firm ground which he may not have enjoyed. He's a winner last time out in this grade, and a five pound penalty is not insurmountable.
As always in the 'caps, it's perfectly possible the winner is unmentioned, but I think there are enough reasons - and points in the prices - to side with Legend Rising and Roachdale House against the field.
Two against the field: Legend Rising 9/1 Hills, Roachdale House 12/1 BetVictor
2.40 SUPERLATIVE STAKES (Group 2) 7f
The Group 2 Superlative Stakes is a seven furlong go for juveniles. Although it's produced a mixed bag of winners, the last ten do includes super-stallion Dubawi, and triple Group 1 winner Olympic Glory.
Again, there is a question mark about the ground with most of the runners, who have yet to encounter soft. That doesn't mean they can't handle it, but it's a guessing game about whether they will. The solid option against that backdrop is Estidhkaar, a twice raced Hannon hoss that was second in his debut in soft ground. He was outpaced over the six there, and duly went in last time at this range. Seven and soft will hold no fears for this guy, and the trainer is very hopeful. He's the most obvious play in a race with lots of question marks, especially as the stable's record in the race in the last four years is 1214.
One at a price that could run well is Cock Of The North. He's been on the go since the start, having won the opening juvenile race of the season, the Brocklesby, at the tail end of March. Since then he ran a fine second - having got badly outpaced - in the five furlong National Stakes at Sandown; and then ran down the field in the Coventry (6f), though was only beaten four and a half lengths.
By Cockney Rebel out of a Lahib mare, he'll get further and is worth a try at seven. This might be too high class for him, but we know he acts on soft, as both the Brocklesby and the National Stakes were muddy turf. He wouldn't be the worst 16/1 shot ever offered.
Selection: Estidhkaar 5/1 bet365
Each way speculative: Cock Of The North 16/1 Ladbrokes, Coral, Skybet
3.15 666BET BUNBURY CUP (Handicap) (CLASS 2) 7f
Twenty runners declared and possible that we'll at least get the sixteen enter the stalls required for four places. That said, three have been scratched already (9pm Friday night), so who knows?
It's a wide open affair, but a few with chances include Absolutely So, Loving Spirit, Hoodna and Heaven's Guest.
Absolutely So has been quoted by his trainer as going to love the ground, and he was backed with enormous confidence before fluffing his lines in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, where he was sent off the 4/1 favourite in a field of 28! He's clearly talented and progressive and, if he's as good as connections believe he is, then he's a major contender.
Loving Spirit has been an expensive horse to follow, and is another for whom stable confidence has been misplaced in recent runs. Nevertheless, he's won a big field soft ground seven furlong event, and was just a head second to Jack Dexter in another, so he might finally repay faith, and at around 20/1 now.
Another looking to bounce back after a disappointing start to the season is Heaven's Guest. He's run four moderate races so far in 2014, but seven furlongs on soft ground is ideal, and he's dropped to within a pound of his last winning rating as a consequence. This fellow will likely race prominently, and he has the class to still be involved at the finish.
Hoodna is a Godolphin filly stepping up from six to seven for the first time. She's bred to get this far, and she'll be covered up from her far rail draw. Whether she's on the right side of the draw, I'm not sure as what pace there is in the field seems to be low.
There are of course lots of others which might get involved, but I'm happy to take Absolutely So, Loving Spirit and Heaven's Guest against the field.
Three off the tee: Absolutely So 7/1 general, Loving Spirit 20/1 Boylesports, Heaven's Guest 18/1 BetVictor
3.50 Darley July Cup (Group1) 6f
The Group 1 Darley July Cup is a race befitting its Group 1 status, and this year it looks absolutely wide open.
The favourite is Slade Power, at 5/2, and he has the most obvious chance for sure. He comes here on the hat-trick having won a Group 3 at the Curragh, and the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, both over six furlongs. He has no problem with soft ground - two wins from three starts - and he will take the beating.
But this is a deep field and, while a saver on Slade Power might be prudent, a main bet on him is not the way I see it.
The pair suited by six soft furlongs are Jack Dexter and Astaire, both priced at 20/1 or bigger.
Jack Dexter has a fantastic record on soft ground, and is probably better at six than five. His six furlong record on soft or heavy reads 11112136, that most recent 6 being a shade disappointing. If that effort can be forgiven, he's over-priced with everything in his favour.
Astaire's record at six on soft reads 12 with both runs coming in Group 2 company. He clearly doesn't have much to find to get involved, and he beat Hot Streak (re-opposes, half the price) in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes on the Rowley Course here last autumn. That was good to soft, further demonstrating Astaire's preference for give. He could lead them a merry dance (groan) at rewarding odds.
Perhaps the most interesting contender is Johnny G's Gregorian. This chap was racing over a mile and a furlong two runs ago, but the drop back to seven last time saw him return to the winners' enclosure. He was in front before the furlong pole that day and, though it was 'only' a Group 3, it was on this track. They'll clearly go a lick quicker here but he deserves a chance to show he can't live with them, and nothing will stay on better up the last furlong incline.
Overall, I think Slade Power has a very solid chance, but 5/2 is just not sexy value in a field of this class. Astaire and Jack Dexter are strong podium contenders at 'working man's prices' (another phrase I hate), and Gregorian is a left field poke with a squeak.
I've backed Jack and Fred (Astaire).
Most likely winner: Slade Power 5/2 general
Two each way: Jack Dexter 20/1 bet365, Astaire 22/1 BetVictor