Oxted wasn't quite at it today and the 8/13 favourite was beaten by three quarters of a length by the 7/1 shot Summerghand, who we'd identified as the main threat. The winner was well drawn in stall 2 and our pace/draw heatmap suggested that he'd improve his chances by abandoning his usual mid-divisional race positioning. He was held up at the best, before making his way through the field to finish strongly. Well done to everyone who got on, especially those on the £16.70 Exacta.
To Friday now, where 'feature of the day' is the Horses for Courses report, which does exactly what you'd expect, whilst our free races of the day are as follows...
- 2.15 Newbury
- 4.00 Newbury
- 4.27 Ayr
- 6.00 Ballinrobe
- 6.50 Exeter
I had no qualifiers under my fairly strict criteria for the Horses for Courses report, but one did come close, only missing out by not having made enough appearances and that horse, Jessiemac, runs in one of our "free" races, so I think we'll cover the 4.27 Ayr, a 12-runner, Class 3 Handicap Hurdle over 3m0.5f on Good ground (that will be good to soft in places and they're watering) worth £4,956 to one of this dozen...
Major Dundee was well beaten (almost 55 lengths) on his handicap bow in late February, but ran much better next/last time out when winning by 8.5 lengths over 3m at Chepstow three weeks ago. He's up 2lbs and one class here and shoulders top weight. More improvement needed, but place chances for sure.
No Regrets finished 44678 before going handicapping where his form has improved to read 311225 and both runner-up finishes (bt by 2L and then a neck) were at this level, the latter over 3m. He was 5th of 6 last time out, 11 lengths adrift, but does drop in class here an possibly needed the run last time. That said, I don't see him making the frame.
Sultan's Pride has three wins and a less than 4 lengths defeat on heavy ground rom his four runs this season and comes here on the back of a 2 length success at Doncaster last time out. He's up 6lbs for that win, but could well come on for that last run, which came after a break of almost 17 weeks. Good chance here, I think.
I'd Better Go Now is 3 from 8 over hurdles, but finished 15th of 17 (bt by 88L) two starts ago and was then pulled up last time out on his chase debut. He has been off the track for over 4 months now and although he's down 2lbs, I'm not fancying his chances here.
Stop The World has made the frame in 5 of his 8 efforts over hurdles but has yet to win in this sphere and is only 1 from 8 elsewhere. He could only muster 3rd of 5 last time out and off a mark of 120, he's probably too high in the weights here to be competitive.
Skipthescales will turn out to be a better chaser than he is a hurdler, but ran creditably here twice in the winter when attempting to win a couple of 3m0.5f/3m1f heavy ground handicaps from the front. He ended up 5th of 10 (bt by 4L) in a Class 3 and then he was 4th of 6 beaten by 12.5 lengths at Class 4. He's only 4lbs lighter than that run, but up in class and was also well beaten last time out on Boxing Day. Not for me, I'm afraid.
Always Resolute is likely to be quick across the ground between hurdles based on his win in a Class 3 handicap over 1m6.5f at Chester last September and he was pretty useful on the Flat in general. Hurdle-wise, he won by the best part of three lengths last time out at this grade at Newbury six weeks ago. He's up 5lbs for that win and now tackles 3m+ for the first time, but looked to have something in hand last time out and has won off a higher mark than this. Place potential here.
Off The Beat is possibly better than his form would suggest, but ran creditably last time out, finishing as a runner-up over 3m on good to soft ground over 3m at Musselburgh last month. The assessor thought he ran well enough to go up 3lbs and both his yard and his jockey (who work well together) have good records at this venue. He's not an obvious winner here, but looking at the opposition, he could well make the frame at a reasonable price.
The Ogle Gogle Man seems to have had a new lease of life since moving to Iain Jardine, finishing 23112 in his five starts, all beyond three miles and all in handicap hurdles. It should be said that they were all Class 5 too and he lost the first two by 22 lengths and then 38 lengths before winning off a reduced mark of 90. He won again off 97, but then failed by a neck last time out off 107. I'm not with him today, because he's up another 2lbs, he's up two classes and this will be his fourth 3m+ run inside 52 days and could be a step too far.
Jessiemac was the one that almost made the horses for courses list with a 25% win & 50% place strike rate in handicaps here at Ayr, making the frame 4 times (winning twice) from 8 attempts and she's one from one over course and distance (late October 2019). Since winning back to back races here in 2019, she hasn't looked the same since, although she did win a Class 4 event at Kelso last October. She has since been beaten by a combined 86 lengths in four runs since and I can't see her doing much here either.
Tomorrow's Angel is an interesting runner here. She ended 2020 with a runner-up finish at Newcastle and kicked 2021 off some 114 days later with the same result at Sedgefield, both at Class 5. She then won a Class 4 over 2m7f at Kelso breaking her duck at the 21st attempt just twenty-five days ago. She hasn't been resting, though, as she has raced on the Flat over 2m at Redcar in the last fortnight, finishing third just a length and three quarters off the winner. So, she's clearly in good nick, but she's on a career high mark tackling a Class 3 handicap for the first time. I don't think she can win this, but has a real chance of the places if things fall her way.
Manetti completes the line-up and is a much better chaser than he is a hurdler. Although beaten by over 16 lengths on his hurdling debut, he finished 3rd of 10. Since then he has failed to place in all four attempts, being beaten by 26, 11, 11 and 55 lengths respectively. He has never raced at 3m or beyond and has no Class 3 hurdling experience. A mark of 101 sees him get plenty of weight all round, but he's not one I'd want to risk money on.
At this point, I normally take you straight to Instant Expert for a full card overview of how these horses have fared in these conditions and I will do in a moment, but I think I already know where I'm going with this one. I'm actually happy to mentally rule out half of the field here and now, because I think the winner and placers come from the following (in alphabetical order)...
...Always Resolute / Major Dundee / Off The Beat / Sultan's Pride / The Ogle Gogle Man / Tomorrow's Angel...
Let's see what Instant Expert thinks/says...
Major Dundee is an unexposed handicapper after just one attempt and is only 2lbs higher than his last win, Sultan's Pride hasn't been to Ayr before, but going, class, trip and field size hold no fears for him, but he is 6lbs higher than his LTO win. Always Resolute gets the ground well enough, but a 1 from 14 record at this grade isn't good. Off the Beat is another unexposed type with little supporting data. The Ogle Gogle Man is green for all the zones he has numbers for, but we should stress, it's only based on 2 runs and he's some 10lbs higher than his last win. Tomorrow's Angel has little workable data too, but is in good nick.
Race pace / tactics might be the decider here in what doesn't strike me as being a particularly good Class 3 contest...
Sadly, that's fairly inconclusive, other than to say hold up horses tend to struggle. From a win perspective, you're better off leading, but leaders fare worst for the places, whilst hold up horses do pretty well at making the frame without converting it to wins. This suggests it's a difficult place to judge the pace of the race, if hold up horses are leaving to too late to win, but are still getting placed. Confused? I think I am!
Anyway, leaders win most often and the other three running styles tend to fill the places. Unfortunately, the above goes out of the window, because there's no pace in this race at all. The one most likely to take it on, The Macon Lugnatic, is a non-runner, so unless Skipthescales steps forward, we might be in for a 2m6f trot followed by a 2f dash to the line. Hopefully the better horses will come to the fore, if that's the case.
After the write-ups, which are a mix of form, stats and my personal opinion, I was happy to discard half of the field. We got precious little from Instant Expert and/or the pace tab on this occasion, so we're going to lean on the unquantifiable today : gut feeling! I mean, what could possibly go wrong? 😀
I'm happy with the six I had...Always Resolute / Major Dundee / Off The Beat / Sultan's Pride / The Ogle Gogle Man / Tomorrow's Angel...
And here's how I think they might finish : Tomorrow's Angel (weight & class) and The Ogle Gogle Man (weight & too much racing) look the weakest of the six and will hopefully finish in that order, leaving us with our final three and one more discard, who is going to be Major Dundee due to him carrying top weight stepping up in class.
That takes me to where I like to be : three against the field and I'm going to go Sultan's Pride ahead of Off The Beat with Always Resolute back in third. I don't actually have much separating the three, but that's how I'm calling it. I wonder if the bookies agree?
Well, the answer is no, they don't. They have my three at 7/1, 11/1 and 5/1 respectively. I'm happy to take 7/1 about Sultan's Pride and 11/1 E/W about Off The Beat, as I think they're decent prices. Bookies are paying 4 and even 5 places on this race, but the three discards are 8/1, 9/1 and 8/1 so there's possibly not much mileage in taking those on an E/W basis, although you'd have a decent chance of a small payout.