Crossbar rattling today, as 6/1 shot Typhoon Ten was a runner-up for the second time in a fortnight. Overnight favourite Muscika drifted badly in the betting and was well beaten.
Attention now turns to Friday's racing, where the Horses for Courses report is the feature of the day and our free races are as follows...
- 2.45 Sandown
- 3.30 York
- 4.25 Fairyhouse
- 4.35 York
- 6.50 Aintree
- 8.30 Aintree
I have no qualifiers on my settings for the , so it's back to the free races I go and the best of the six is the earlier of the two at York. So today's race in focus will be a a 7-runner, Class 2, 3yo+ Fillies handicap over 6f on Good to Firm ground. It's worth £17,524 to the winner and here's the card and some associated stats for the 3.30 York...
All bar Mid Winster have at won at least one of their last five with Mejthaam being the only LTO winner and she now comes here for her handicap debut here but she steps up three classes. Brazen Belle also steps up three classes, whilst it's a two-grade rise for Shepherds Way, Noorban and Ballintoy Harbour, who is having her second crack at handicap racing today.
With Gale Force Maya dropping down from Class 2, only Mid Winster actually ran in this grade last time out! All seven have raced in the past month and the age spread is 3-5. The weight is much wider with a huge 25lbs separated top and bottom weights, partly due to the 8lb weight allowance for 3yr olds here. The Geegeez SR ratings suggest a tight contest with just 8pts separating the first four ranked.
Gale Force Maya shoulders top weight of 10-0 back in handicap company having been well beaten in a Listed race LTO. She recorded her highest winning mark of 85 in the run before that Listed race, but runs off 92 here. She's 4/8 on Gd to Fm, 5/13 at this trip and 4/14 under today's jockey, but has never won higher than Class 4 and I think she might just be too high in the weights here.
Mid Winster has a modest 3 from 22 record to date and last won almost 9 months and six races ago at Class 5 over 5f, but has been knocking on the door with some solid efforts this term (3424). She was beaten by a length and a half off this mark at this grade LTO, but is now up in trip. She'll be in the mix, but she's better at 5f.
Shepherds Way ran well on her seasonal reappearance at Thirsk at the the start of May, getting within two lengths of the winner despite being off the track for 199 days. She then toiled on softer ground at Carlisle next/last time out and a step up in trip and class probably puts paid to her chances here.
Noorban won on debut last August and was immediately pitched into the Gr2 Lowther Stakes on her second outing where she had a respectable mid-division finish, before two lesser efforts including finishing 6th of 13 on handicap debut off a mark of 84. She returned from 196 days off to finish 8th at Thirsk in early May, but has since won over 5f off a mark of 80 and was a runner-up LTO off today's mark of 84. She's up in both trip and class here, but is definitely in with a shout thanks to the age allowance.
Ballintoy Harbour has hit the ground running with decent efforts in all four starts to date. She was only beaten by 2.75 lengths on debut before winning back to back Class 5 Novice contests either side of a 242-day break from mid-August to mid-April. She then stepped up in class to finish third on handicap debut, 1.75 lengths off the pace, at Redcar at the start of this month. She's clearly progressing nicely and runs off an unchanged mark here, but she's up two classes and tries 6f for the first time.
Mejthaam has got steadily better in four starts so far, finishing 10th, 4th, 2nd and then 1st all at Class 5 and all on the all-weather. An opening handicap mark of 80 isn't particularly onerous, but she's up in class considerably (+3) and has never raced on turf or a quick surface. She's unexposed, but might just need that first run on grass.
Brazen Belle is a modest Class 5 handicapper if truth be told, hence her mark in the mid-70's and despite a career-best performance to win off 71 at Wolverhampton two starts ago, her flat form is poor having made the frame just once in her last seven starts. She was beaten by 4.5 lengths off this mark last time even with the assistance of a jockey claiming 5lbs and up three classes here with no claim, she's destined to struggle, I'd have thought.
Based on the above, all seven have questions to answer, but with the exception of Brazen belle, I think that any one of them could land this based on the evidence (or lack of) above, so we need more clues.
That's the general career stats under today's conditions across all races in all codes and it's good to see five winners on this quicker ground. The top two on the card have tried and failed several times in this grade, but Gale Force Maya's five class 2 defeats include four placed finishes and she's good at this trip.
And now considering purely Flat handicap form...
...where if anything, Gale Force Maya looks even stronger.
Draw & Pace stats...
We don't really have enough workable data under the draw/pace tabs for my liking for this type of race, so I'm going to use the Query Tool as a point of reference here, based on the following parameters...
Using those gives me a bigger sample sample to work with and here are the draw and pace stats from such races...
We've still, admittedly, only seven races to work from, but all the winners came from stall 2 or higher and the place stats would re-affirm that stall 1 isn't the best place to be. Stalls 2 & 3 are the best of the low draws, whilst out wide in 7 could be useful too. As for pace, it pays to lead if you want to win, but those tucking in behind the leaders tend not to fare too well. So, when I look at pace and draw together, I think I'm going to want stalls 2,3 and 8 wanting to lead or be held up and this is how this bunch have raced in recent times...
Brazen Belle is an out and out leader, but tends to not only get caught bit fails to even make the frame. Ballintoy Harbour and Gale Force Maya look like the ones most likely to take her on for the lead and whilst the latter isn't drawn well in box 1, Shepherd Way will be held up so GFM could drift off the rail into the vacated space alongside Brazen Belle. Ballintoy Harbour might end up doing too much if she approaches it like her usual 5f before being asked to go further.
The bottom three in the draw will look to sit off the pace and that hasn't always worked out here at York and probably wouldn't be a bad thing if Mid Winster made an effort to go after the leaders here on the quicker ground.
It's an interestingly tight-looking contest with no standout performer to hang my hat on, but I'd initially spilt the field and say I'm less keen on Shepherds Way (too much to do an up in trip/class), Mejthaam (big class rise and 1st time on turf) and Brazen Belle who I just don't think is good enough.
That leaves me with four and they still all have questions to answer....
Ballintoy Harbour is up two classes and tackled 6f for the first time.
Gale Force Maya isn't ideally drawn and probably carries too much weight.
Mid Winster hasn't won for a good while, has a poor Class 2 record, hasn't won on ground this quick and is better over 5f.
Noorban is up in both trip and class and a mid-div pozzy won't help.
To be honest, any of the four could win and they could come home in any order, but I'm leaning towards Gale Force Maya and Noorban as my two against the field at odds of 5/1 and 9/2 respectively. Those prices might well offer us a bit of value, but if you are playing this race, I'd advise caution on staking and just use your loose change here.
If anything, the sensible advice is to just put your money, your feet up and watch the race with the beverage of your choice, but who likes being sensible?