Tough going for me at the moment with things not quite going my way of late, but Monday heralds a new week and six more opportunities. To assist everyone with their punting today, we make the PACE tab available to all readers for all races, included our featured free races, which are scheduled to be...
- 1.40 Lingfield
- 2.20 Warwick
- 2.50 Warwick
- 7.30 Wolverhampton
The Lingfield race is an A/W jumpers bumper and I don't like those, the first at Warwick has 19 runners and the second has just four and a probable odds-on jolly, so it's off to the Black Country for a look at the 7.30 Wolverhampton...
Nagasaki Dream is the lowest rated by the handicapper in this field off a mark of 62 and is the lowest scorer of the five runners with a Geegeez Speed Rating. With a 3lb claimer on board, he receives at least 13lbs from his rivals after all claims are considered, but I doubt that's going to be enough to get him a win.
Last of six and sixth of seven in his two handicap starts to date, both here at Wolverhampton at this Class 4 grade saw him go down by almost 14 lengths over 1m0.5f and then most recently he was beaten by nearly 12 lengths over today's course and distance off a mark just four pounds higher. I'd be very surprised if he's not last home.
Nortonthorpe Boy is likely to be popular after three wins and a runner-up finish in his last four starts, he's a former course and distance winner (the only one in this field) and he tops the Geegeez ratings.
He made all to win last time out at Kempton over a mile, just hanging on to win by a half a length over a one mile trip. That was his fourth run in 15 days and thankfully, he's been rested for 33 days since. He's likely to have needed the break as this is a sharper trip, he's up two classes and is now some 6lbs higher than his last run to a career-high mark of 74. Definite chances here, but it won't be easy.
Obtuse won four on the bounce (1 x Class 6 and 3 x Class 5) over 5f (twice) and 6f (twice) in a 40-day period to January 2nd, including two wins here at Wolverhampton. He then had 22 days rest prior to re-appearing at Lingfield 22 days ago to finish third.
He was actually last home of three if truth be told, but that was a Class 3 contest and he was only headed late on in a 2.25 length defeat. He now drops down in class and is 7lb lower thanks to the booking of the in-form Rhys Clutterbuck, but he has yet to prove he gets 7f. If getting the trip, he'll be bang in there at the close, you'd have thought.
Praise of Shadows is very lightly raced, but has won one of his three starts to date, scoring on debut over 7f at Chester in a Class 5 contest last August nine days before a 16 length defeat at Group 3.
He has been off the track for 5 months since his last run and has had a wind op in that time away from the track. His trainer, Marco Botti does well with horses returning from a lay-off, but on an A/W debut on a first post-wind op run, this one is probably left alone.
Sweet Bertie is the highest rated by the assessor here and runs off the same mark of 82 as he did in a 5 lengths defeat on this track over 1m0.5f on Boxing Day. His sole win to date came over that trip here in November when holding on by a neck off a mark of 77, so 82 seems a little steep.
He has been steadily consistent without setting the world on fire so far and it is hoped that a drop back to 7f (where he was second and third in his last two runs) and the application of first time blinkers will do the trick today. He's in with a shout, but I'm not wild about him at this point.
Toussarok makes up the field here and he has been running pretty well without reward finishing 2233 in his last four outings, all at this class and trip and not being beaten by far off marks of 79 and 80.
He was only beaten by half a length behind the in-form Fayathaan over this track, trip and class last time out, having led until a furlong from home. Mark Johnston's horses have had a great month (13 wins from 39) and they'll be hoping for success here, I think he just might be a couple of pounds too high.
Between them, this field have a respectable win/place strike rate, making the frame in 20 of 47 (42.6%) races to date, winning 10 (21.3%) of them and when it comes to A/W handicaps, the field have achieved the following...
I wasn't too keen on Nagasaki Dream nor Praise of Shadows from my write-ups and Instant Expert has done little to persuade me otherwise. I'm overlooking Toussarok's line of red for now, as I know he has been knocking on the door of late and with the three highlighted above all going up in weight by 5, 6 or 9 pounds, him staying on the same mark (albeit too high for my liking) might be a positive.
We don't get too many 6-runner handicaps at this trip here at Wolverhampton, but of the last 40, it has paid to be drawn more centrally with low draws faring worst. Stall 3 has proved to be the most successful from a win perspective with runners emerging from box four making the frame most often. It's not an exact science with small fields, but those details certainly look good for Nortonthorpe Boy and Obtuse.
That said, these small-field races often end up being tactical affairs, whereby leaders tends to get swallowed up (unless they're from a central draw) and the ideal "pozzy" is to sit mid-division waiting to pounce, which what Toussarok and Sweet Bertie would probably need to do from stalls 2 and 6.
Thanks to the pace tab (free to all users today), we can quickly see how these six horses have run in the past and we can overlay those past running styles onto that heatmap above. We're well aware that this is not a guarantee of how they will run, but trainers/horses do tend to stick to tactics.
Here's that overlay...
...suggesting we could well have a hot heat on our hands. Past performances suggest Obtuse & Nortonthorpe Boy will both attempt to go forward from the off with Sweet Bertie and Toussarok just in behind. Toussarok's pace/draw make-up looks better than Sweet Bertie's and I think that might be decisive in the battle for third spot, but I'd not be surprised if the two leaders get out and stay out.
Looks like we might have a proper sprint contest here and based on what I've read & written about these horses, my preference is for Obtuse at 9/2. He was in great form prior to his 9lb weight rise last time out, but the in-form Rhys Clutterbuck now negates 7 of those 9lbs and I think that'll be enough to see him home, assuming he gets the 7f, of course..
I don't expect him to have it all his own way, though. Nortonthorpe Boy will run with him all the way and I wouldn't be surprised if Toussarok isn't involved late on too, but it's Obtuse for me at a value price and I've little separating Nortonthorpe Boy & Toussarok. The market has those pair at 2/1 and 10/3 respectively, so for forecast purposes, I'd prefer the latter to make the frame at the former's expense.