Friday's free feature is the Horses For Courses (H4C) report, which shows the full course history since 2009 of any horse running that has previously had a run at the track, whilst our free races of the day will be...
- 5.15 Newmarket
- 5.30 Curragh
- 5.55 Chester
- 6.45 Newcastle
- 8.45 Chester
- 8.55 Newcastle
I've a couple of interesting qualifiers from my settings on the Horses For Courses (H4C) report...
...but I think they're both up against it and they're in pretty big fields too, so I'm off to the Roodee for the 8.45 Chester, a very competitive-looking 6-runner, 3yo Class 4 handicap over 1m2½f on Good ground and these are the runners seeking to land the £4,347 prize...
I've actually seen an opening show for this race and my thoughts about it being competitive seem to be shared by the bookies with five of them priced from 3/1 to 9/2 with a 7/1 outsider. Of the six, only Fairmac is winless in his last five runs, but has placed four times, so he's hardly out of sorts. Solent Getaway, Coul Kat and Rival all won last time out and the latter is tackling a handicap for just the second time, as is Qaasid.
Bottom weight and bottom SR-rated Corbulo steps up from Class 5 here, whilst Solent Getaway now drops two grades despite winning least time out, which is interesting. All six have raced in the past month, but only Fairmac (7 days) has rested for less than 20 days. The only previous course winner here is Rival, who won over track and trip last time out, whilst Corbulo has also won over this unusual trip at Doncaster and Solent Gateway was a winner over 1m2f.
We've some big-name trainers here who have fared well on this tight turning track and a couple of course specialist jockeys and whilst we've not many runners and it's a low-ish grade contest, this could well turn out to be a great race. I won't rule any out on what the racecard tells me, but I'm wary of Corbulo stepping up in class for a yard shy of form, but let's hang fire with a decision for now whilst we have a quick look at the runners starting with...
Rival, who stepped up in trip to land a course and distance win on his handicap debut here almost four weeks ago, making all from the same stall 4 that he occupies today. This race looks more competitive, albeit in the same grade and a 6lb weight rise might just be enough to anchor him here.
Qaasid made steady progress as a 2yo finishing 7th (beaten by 12L), 3rd (bt by7L) then winning by a length over a mile. He was then off track for 30 weeks before returning to go down by six lengths at Nottingham earlier this month. He's up in trip by a quarter mile here off the same mark and I think he'll need at least another run before being of interest.
Solent Gateway is a pretty consistent sort, who has made the frame in half of his ten runs to date, but it took until that last run to finally win. That said, it was an impressive performance to land a Class 2 handicap on Derby Day and although he had to dig deep to win by a nose off a mark of 78, his rivals were rated from 79 to 94. He's up 4lbs here, but down two classes and he looked game at Epsom and could well improve for that experience.
Coul Kat is even more consistent than the one above. Sixth in a pair of sprint maidens to open his career, he has since only failed to in the first two home in one of eight handicap outings, winning three times with four runner-up prizes, all at 8/8.5f. He's up in trip (+2f) and weight (+4lbs) but is in prime form and I'd expect him to run well once again.
Fairmac won a 7.5f Novice contest at Ayr last September to earn a handicap mark of 79, which proved to be just beyond him. He suffered a string of not-disgraced defeats off marks of 76 to 78, but ran his best race to date last time out when only beaten by a short head over 1m2f at Redcar and it could be argued that had it been over today's trip he'd have won. That was only a week ago so you have to take fitness on trust, but he could be dangerous here off the same mark.
Corbulo has progressed nicely as a 3yo handicapper after a disappointing campaign last year when he never got closer than 11 lengths to a winner in three attempts. He has two wins and two places from four this season, though and has looked much more at home. A 6lb rise in weight slowed him down last time out and he goes off the same mark today, although he is reunited with Georgean Buckell who'll take 3lbs off and the pair have finished 121 in three starts together. My concerns here that he's up in class from a 3 length defeat and he'd probably want quicker ground.
ALL flat form courtesy of Instant Expert...
Interesting to see only Coul Kat has won on good ground, but we've three previous class winners (plus Solent won at C2 LTO). I referred to course/distance successes earlier in the piece and although I don't normally comment much on field sizes, races of 6 or fewer runners (and 14+ ones) are more interesting, because they're often run in a different manner to 7-12 or so runner contests. Tactics seem to be more pronounced in small or large fields and three of this field have won similar races.
Now for Flat handicap records...
If anything they make the ones who stood out on the first image look better when only considering handicap data, but with the obvious caveat that we're talking about really small and possibly unreliable sample sizes and I wouldn't rule any of them out even at this stage after the card view, the brief resumé or Instant Expert, so we need more info to guide us, starting with the draw.
There's an old adage that at Chester you need to be drawn low and get out quick if you want to win and over this trip in recent times, a low draw has been a good place to be...
...but not the be all and end all. Stall 5 fares better than stall 2 and those drawn in 4 (Rival today and also when winning LTO) have done best of all and if we combine the scores for 6 & &, they're better than box 2 from a percentage basis. Maybe the takeaway should be don't get stall 2 (Qaasid), but that would be a bit absurd.
As for pace/race positioning, the old tale is almost right, but you don't need to lead to win, but you really could do with being up with the pace, hanging back is not an option. Leaders hit the places in half of their races, so from that perspective, I'd say that's where I'd want my runner to be...
Unsurprisingly as a result of the above sets of data , the pace/draw heatmap is heavily biased to the bottom/right of the graphic
The most interesting of the 12 sectors above for me is the prominent runners from a middle draw at 28%, because with 25 of the overall 155 runners, it's easily the most favoured place to be and has proven successful. That said, I'd be happy with any horse in the green areas so let's see how today's runners' recent efforts place themselves on that heatmap...
All the early pace in the race seems to be away from the lowest drawn runners and I'm happy to now discard both Corbulo and Qaasid, not just because of that last image, but also because they were 4th and 6th on my own ratings. That then leaves me with four and needing to drop one more before I try to get the 1-2-3 and it's at this point that Rival leaves us. To be honest, there's probably very little between these four, but Rival didn't have much in hand last time out and is up 6lbs here.
I've ended up with Coul Kat, Fairmac and Solent Gateway as my final three and I've got Fairmac as the weaker of the trio, but you could probably toss a coin between the other two as to who would be my pick.
Solent Gateway will have to make ground up on the leaders and he's up 4lbs, but did gamely win a far better race last time out. Coul Kat has the advantage of being able to control the race from the front but although he has been ultra-consistent at trips of around a mile, he's up 4lbs and 2 furlongs here. The Dascombe / Kingscote team are only based just down the road and I think their boy Solent Gateway just edges it for me here.
The bookies disagree with me, but they're not always right and they have my pair at 5/1 and 9/2 respectively. Fingers crossed!