I wasn't surprised to see Exploiteur land the spoils at Ffos Las earlier, but his task was made considerably easier by Sirop de Menthe falling 2 out when "giving it a right good go" as they say up here in Lancashire. SdM was running a big race as indeed I hoped he would before coming down.
On now to Thursday where the feature of the day is the informative Instant Expert, whilst our free racecards cover...
- 12.10 Wincanton
- 12.50 Thurles
- 1.50 Newcastle
- 2.20 Newcastle
- 3.50 Newcastle
None of those races really float my boat, but a quick flick through Instant Expert alerted me to the 5.30 Chelmsford, a 10-runner, Class 2 A/W Handicap for 3yo+ over 6f worth £12,291 to the winner. My interest was aroused by the possibility of a short priced favourite making only his second appearance on the A/W and his first on Polytrack, despite having raced 16 times on the flat and I wondered if others might be better suited here.
It was the place section of Instant Expert that I looked at first...
...where all bar the likely favourite Aberama Gold and the debutant Lipsink have a least one block of green. Tropics has fared consistently well on the A/W , especially at this venue, whilst Merhoob is another regular placer on the A/W, at this grade and over this trip, whilst both of these runners are now rated 9lbs lower than their last win.
Speaking of wins, here's the win section of the same Instant Expert settings...
...where we have fewer stand-outs, but Tawny Port, Spirit of May and Nigel Nott instantly catch they eye, whilst Tropics' 7 placed finishes from 12 here at Chelmsford actually includes 5 wins.
Pace and draw are often key in these contests, so that's where we'll go next. Draw is easier to show/explain, so we'll look at that first...
...and there doesn't appear to be any discernible draw bias at play for us here, so what about the pace of the race?
Well, none of them really seem aided or hindered by their own running styles/draw other than you'd preferably be on one of the first four listed., so that's not telling us much other than the leaders are likely to come from stalls 2-4. As yet, I've no hard and fast evidence to back or dismiss the likely favourite, nor am I yet in a position who might be best placed to land a blow at a decent price.
This means I need more information, so we now head to the main racecard itself in descending Speed Rating Order...
Firstly, we should ignore the lack of rating for Lipsink, who makes a UK debut and we shouldn't read too much in to the favourite's rating of 35. Aberama Gold's only previous run on the A/W was on tapeta and he was well beaten. Mind you, it was a Group 3 race and he was coming back off a seven-month absence.
Form-wise, Aberama, Poets Dance and Lipsink lead the way and we've five course and distance winners and one with a win at course and also at this trip. Nothing to write home about re: trainer and jockey form other than Robert Cowell sending out a few winners recently, so let's take brief look at each in turn...
Poets Dance has improved in each of her last three runs and although she's up in class here, her mark is only a pound higher than last month's runner-up finish whe beaten by just half a length despite not getting a clear run. Newscaster was three places and two lengths further back that day, but she has since won. If PD continues her improvement, she should be there or thereabouts today.
Rathbone is on a long losing run and aside from 2 wins from 13 at this trip, there's little else to suggest he'll go well here. He's still too high in the weights for my liking and his only hope has to be that he really takes to the Polytrack on debut.
Spirit of May looked good on Instant Expert, but since ending 2019 with back to back course and distance wins here, he has struggled this autumn finishing 6868. A return to Chelmsford where he is 3111 over course and distance might just be the spark he needs, having been eased 5lbs by the assessor. He'll need things to fall right for him, but if he tracks the favourite, that could work.
Nigel Nott was a course and distance winner here two starts ago, but didn't see out an extra furlong last time out. He's now back to a more favoured trip and down a pound in the ratings and I'd expect him to be in contention again here.
Tawny Port is a bit of an enigma really. He's proven on the A/W, at this track, in this grade, over this trip etc etc, but he's unreliable and I think he's a 5f (5.5f) horse personally. If you look at this record, he can run really well followed by a poor effort and then back to going well. It might sound stupid, but on his day he could win this with plenty in hand, but he could also come home last. Too many variables for me, so it's a no here.
Katheefa is probably going to come home last (if Tawny Port doesn't, of course) and has been poor in two runs since returning from a long break. 11th of 11 was followed by 11th of 12, both at Class 3 and beaten by a combined 20 lengths, it's hard to see how a step up to Class 2 would bring about a win, even if he is 7 from 36 over 6f on the A/W. The truth is that he's better suited to Fibresand.
Merhoob is another who looked half decent further up the page, but is struggling for form. Seven losses since winning in mid-January and he's still on too high a mark for me. He's 6 from 25 over this trip on the A/W and he's 2 from 9 here overall (2/7 over C&D). It wouldn't actually take too much improvement for him to get into the places, but others appeal more today.
Tropics is the old man of the race at 12 yrs old and has a great career record of 14 wins from 69 (20.3% SR), but the reality is that he's not the force he was. He has beaten in each of his lest eleven runs and is 2 from 26 over the last 29 months, but both wins did come here at Chelmsford where he is 5/12, but better known as a 5f sprinter. The sentimental side of me would love him to win here and then retire, but I can't see the former happening.
And finally we have the two who might be falsely placed on the Geegeez speed ratings, starting with likely favourite Aberama Gold. He's the form horse, the class horse and the horse to beat here in my opinion. He won a Class 2 handicap over 6f on soft ground at Doncaster in October and followed it up by finishing as runner-up just three quarters of a length behind the excellent Dakota Gold in a Listed contest 12 days ago (also 6f, soft, Doncaster). Untouchable on form by these rivals, the only doubt is the fact that he has only one A/W ruin to his name and nine on Polytrack.
Lastly we have French import, Lipsink. No UK form to analyse, but he was 2 from 3 over 6.5f on the A/W at Chantilly & Deauville and is an interesting addition to a yard best known for their sprinters.
Aberama Gold clearly sets the standard here, but I'm not keen on backing runners at 13/8 or so with no prior experience of conditions. I dare say he'll go on to win, but I can't put money on him at that kind of price. Of the remainder, I'm interested in Nigel Nott, Poets Dance and possibly Spirit of May. At current odds of 9/2, 13/2 ad 13/2, it's hardly conducive for E/W betting, so I'd have to leave that alone.
It's not going to be a big betting race for me, but if I was to have a couple of quid for interest, I might just side with Poets Dance at 13/2 and if you wanted a double digit E/W punt, you can get 16/1 about which version of Tawny Port shows up!