Wow! I said today's race would be a tight affair and it couldn't have been much tighter than it was. Sadly we narrowly missed out twice in a race where the first five home were separated as follows... neck, nose, nose, head! Our pick King of Stars was the 15/2 runner-up beaten by a neck, whilst the 12/1 E/W shot Muscika was fourth, a neck and two noses away from winning, but not even making the frame.
The other horse I suggested that would be a bad E/W bet either, Music Society, was fifth home at 16/1. So, although I drew a financial blank here, I'm pleased at how close we got and the only blot on the day was the poor run from eventual favourite Jawwaal, who faded away late on and probably wasn't quite as ready as he'd like first up.
On Thursdays we open up the informative Instant Expert to all readers for all races, including, of course, our free races of the day, which are set to be...
- 1.55 Limerick
- 3.00 Newmarket
- 4.15 Limerick
- 5.50 Limerick
- 5.55 Newcastle
The race at HQ is easily the "best" of those races and although there's going to be a very short favourite, we might well be able to find a decent E/W shot for the forecast. So, today's piece centres around the 3.00 Newmarket, the 7-runner Group 3 bet365 Abernant Stakes for 3yo+ horses over 6f on ground that is set to be good (good to firm in places). The top prize is £25,520 and these are the seven hoping to land it...
Five of the seven have at least one win in their last four outings, Summerghand is the only LTO winner in the field, though and he's one of three stepping up in class. All seven have either won here or have won over this trip, whilst two (Oxted & Jouska) are course and distance winners.
Oxted is the likely short-priced favourite and he's very much well in at the weights (at least 11lbs). Five of this field have raced in the past month and only Jouska returns from a long lay-off. Now we'll look at each of them a little closer...
Emaraaty Ana won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes in 2018 but hasn't quite hit those heights since, although he was third (beaten by 4.75 lengths) in this race last year. He was gelded and had a breathing op during the 31 week break he had before returning to action at Doncaster 19 days ago when a creditable second in a Listed race. This is much tougher, though and I think he might struggle.
Exalted Angel won a Listed race on the Polytrack at Lingfield two starts and almost 10 weeks ago, just getting home by a neck and he was then a runner-up over the same course and distance a fortnight ago on Championship Day when beaten by Summerghand who re-opposes today. He's more effective away from grass and I'm not sure he could reverse those placings.
Oxted is the likely odds on fav here and is very much best off at the weights. He won this race last year before going on to land the Group 1 July Cup. He then took 14 weeks off before going down by just over a length in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes where he ran out of steam on unsuitably soft ground. He hasn't been seen in the UK since that mid-October run, but has had a pipe opener on the dirt in Riyadh in the past eight weeks, so should be ready for this.
Shine So Bright has been a runner-up in each of his last three starts, albeit on the all-weather at Classes 2 and 3. He hasn't actually won any of his last nine since winning the Group 2 City of York Stakes in August 2019 and although he clearly has ability, he's going to need to up his game to feature here.
Summerghand ditched his usual cheekpieces in favour of a first visor and was a winner on A/W Champions Day last month, pipping the re-opposing Exalted Angel in the process. It was a welcome return to form for this 7 yr old who now makes his 48th start here and has interestingly made the frame in 60% of them, this could be another if he runs like LTO.
Jouska is one of two fillies (both are 4yr olds) in the race and she could only manage 15th of 16 when last seen at Ascot six months ago. In her defence, that was the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes that Oxted was beaten in. She has won here over course and distance in a Listed event, but this is much tougher and she may need the run after such a long absence.
Marly is the second of those 4yo fillies and the last listed on the card. Just two UK runs to date and she hasn't set the world on fire in them, going down by a couple of lengths at Classes 2 and 3. She was a three time winner in France, but looks outclassed here and would probably prefer the ground to be a fair bit softer.
Thursday's free feature is, of course, Instant Expert, so it would be remiss not visit it here...
As expected, there's no getting away from Oxted here, proven in every category, We've plenty of amber elsewhere for the going, we've five Class 1 winners, Summerghand has a fantastic 11 wins at this trip and loves the smaller fields.
So far I've seen little to suggest the jolly will get overturned, so it might just be the runner-up we're looking for, so from a place perspective, Instant Expert looks like this...
And Summerghand looks the likeliest from that, although Exalted Angel is interesting off very few runs and wasn't far behind Summerghand last time out.
From a draw perspective, past data would tend to suggest a low (pref #1 or #2) draw is the favoured place to be, although widest of 7 has also worked out well for runners, as we can see here...
As for pace, leading seems to be the way forward here, whilst prominent runners run to par with an IV of 1. Mid-division runners have fared worst of all, but from a very small sample size, so that might not be entirely reliable, whilst held-up runners are also very close to par.
When we combine running style with draw, the ideal scenario is a low drawn leader (for fairly obvious reasons) and aside from a poor return from a small number of mid-div runners, low drawn runners fare the best full stop. High drawn mid-div runners are fourth best.
So the likes of Exalted Angel and Summerghand in stalls 1 and 2 would be best off if they tried to set the pace early doors, whilst the fav Oxted in stall 7 could let them get on with it and pounce later. This (in draw order), however, is how they've all tended to run...
Neither Exalted Angel nor Summerghand look particularly well suited, but I'm not convinced about the mid-div stats as they're based on such a small sample size and likewise for Jouska, but she has a poorer draw. The other four are probably in as good a zone on the graphic as they could be.
I don't see anything beating Oxted here based on last year's race and what I've documented above. Whether he's worth backing at 8/11 is up to you, I fully expected him to be around 4/6, so the market is about right.
If you don't want to back him at those odds and you want an E/W bet or a placer to go in a forecast etc, then everything I've written points to Summerghand and Exalted Angel being "best of the rest". They're very closely matched and were only a head apart last time out. The former, however, is a better performer on the Flat than the latter, so it's Summerghand to reconfirm his narrow superiority over Exalted Angel for me in the bid to chase Oxted home, although at odds of 13/2 and 12/1 respectively, the Angel looks a more attractive option on potential returns!