The recent cold spell even caused Chelmsford to abandon today, leaving just one of today's two featured runners with a race. In fairness to Luscifer, he was closer than I thought he'd be at the finish, but I was right to even discount him from a top three finish.
Still no UK jumps racing to be had on Saturday, whose feature of the day in the excellent Trainer/Jockey combo report, whilst our list of free racecards are for the following...
- 3.25 Naas
- 4.00 Naas
- 4.44 Wolverhampton
- 6.45 Wolverhampton
- 7.45 Wolverhampton
And I think I'll combine the feature of the day with the first of our free Wolverhampton contests...
...to see if Steal The Scene is likely to win the 4.44 Wolverhampton.
From a form perspective, the top weight Broken Rifle is the only LTO winner on the field and wins have proven hard to come by for this group of late, although Seaforth has won two of his last five. Street Poet is the only class mover, dropping down from Class 5 and he's one of four previous course and distance winners, along with Seaforth, Steal The Scene and Born To reason, whilst Elixsoft has won over both course and distance but not at the same time and Broken Rifle has won here too.
Broken Rifle finally got off the mark last time out when scoring here at Wolverhampton over a furlong shorter just five days ago. He carries a penalty for that win and hasn't proved to be too reliable in the past, but his yard is in great form right now and if he repeats the standard of his last run, he's going to be there or thereabouts. That probably says more about the lack of quality in opposition, but you can only beat what's in front of you.
Seaforth has been off the track for almost 21 weeks, but did win two of his last five runs in 2020, last tasting success at Lingfield in August. He has previously won 4 of 20 here at Wolverhampton including 2 from 9 over C&D. He's still 4lbs higher than his last win and is likely to need the run here. I'd look elsewhere.
Steal The Scene is the TJ Combo horse from above, so I won't repeat those stats, but he'll be looking to turn the clock back to late 2019 when he landed a hat-trick of wins on this track. He's now just 2lbs higher than his last win and looked like coming back to form when only beaten by a length here last time out. Jockey Rossa Ryan is in good nick and if waited with, would have a great chance.
Shine On Brendan is a 15-race maiden and in the course of 12 handicap defeats has seen his mark slide from 75 to today's 59, jockey George Rooke will take another 3lbs off but I'm not convinced that'll be enough to help him break his duck. I wouldn't totally discount him for a place, after a decent enough run here over a furlong shorter last time out. He was only three quarters of a length outside the places that day and now effectively 4lbs lower, could take his A/W place record to 6 from 13.
Elixsoft is a former course winner, but that was over three years ago and she's not been here since, although she's 2 from 19 on Newcastle's Tapeta. Off the track for 96 days since a 15 length defeat over 7 furlongs at Southwell, she's now back up in trip. She'd probably need the run to be honest, but even then she wouldn't be high on my considerations.
Bankawi has only ran on the A/W three times to date, all on Tapeta, making the frame in each of the last two, beaten by just a length each time over course and distance (she was just a nose ahead of Steal The Scene LTO). If things go her way, she's every chance of another place finish.
Street Poet is 8 from 32 here at Wolverhampton, an excellent record that includes three wins from 13 over course and distance, but hasn't run well since winning here over 7 furlongs ten races ago and has finished last of 12 and 10th of 11 in his last two outings, both on this track. After 54 career starts, he's now on an all-time low mark, but he's not for me here despite the drop in class.
Born To Reason is the lowest rated here by the assessor and seems to run here at Wolverhampton almost exclusively nowadays (10 of his last 11 have been here). He won a couple of races here in November/December 2019 and is 2 from 6 over C&D, but has struggled since. He was, admittedly, fourth here last time out but I can't see him being too close today.
As I said earlier, plenty of these have course, distance and course/distance form, so the easiest way of comparing suitability is via Instant Expert...
As you'd expect at Class 6, not much green around denoting the lack of quality/consistency, but quite a bit of amber on display. Our original starting point, Steal The Scene, has some good numbers to his name and has been allocated stall 1, but from just a draw perspective I'm not convinced there's much of a bias anyway...
...and even the way the draw combines with horses' running styles in fairly inconclusive. There are obviously better race positions to be in than others no matter where you're drawn, but with just a few exceptions, there's no real bad pace/draw combos in similar races...
I suppose that in the case of Steal The Scene in stall 1, he'd be better off racing prominently or in mid-division and when I click to the pace tab, I find that in in his last four outings his average race position sits nicely between prominence and mid-division and in similar contests here, prominent racers have fared best.
We can highlight this when we overlay all our competitors running styles...
The upshot of the above is that I'd be loathe to discount runners on the basis of draw, pace or even the pace/draw combination and with Instant Expert also not telling us too much, we need to revert to our opening section ie recent form and gut feeling. So, with that in mind, I'm going to eliminate Born To Reason, Elixsoft, Seaforth and Street Poet from my considerations. Based on my short write-ups of each runner, none of those four eliminations should be a surprise to you.
Having jettisoned half of the eight runners, I'm left with Bankawi, Broken Rifle, Shine On Brendan and our TJ Combo horse, Steal The Scene. Of the four, I think Shine On Brendan is the weakest. He's likely to lead, doesn't generally see races out and I can see him getting caught and beaten, so he's not making my three against the field.
Of my final three, much will depend on Broken Rifle's ability to cut through traffic late on and whether he runs as well as LTO. If he manages to pull both off, I think he could well win, but it'll be tight. Bankawi looks to have an ideal pace/draw set up, is in good nick and will win one of these soon, whilst our feature horse Steal the Scene also has an excellent chance if he doesn't go off as quickly as he did LTO.
So, to return to the question we started with : can Steal The Scene win here? Yes, I think he can, but I've Broken Rifle as being marginally better if he runs like he did last time and I've got Bankawi just behind the pair of them.
Broken Rifle and Bankawi are priced at 5/2 and 10/3 respectively and I wouldn't want to back anything in this race at those prices. Steal The Scene is an 11/2 chance right now and that might well represent better value, as Broken Rifle isn't guaranteed to run well twice in a row and he might well hit traffic.