Well, I got the first two the wrong way around (again) this afternoon, but managed to correctly identify the first three to finish, so well done to those of you landing the near 59/1 Trifecta. They say there's no room for sentiment in sport, but I didn't mind Mr Jack overturning Sawpit Sienna to give Andy Irvine a first winner since the sad passing of his wife, Zoe Davison.
Tuesday's free feature is The Shortlist, whilst the free races are...
- 1.20 Down Royal
- 2.50 Down Royal
- 7.10 Wolverhampton
...and I'm going to look at the last of that trio, the 7.10 Wolverhampton : an 11-runner, Class 6, a/W (Tapeta) Handicap for 3yo runners. The trip is 7f, the prize is £2782 and here are the runners and riders etc...
Major J sits third on the Geegeez ratings, but has yet to win or place in five runs to date. He wears cheekpieces for the first time today as he bids to improve upon a reasonable fourth of ten at Kempton 19 days ago. Has raced here over track and trip on three occasions and was only beaten by two lengths on his last visit/handicap debut almost four weeks ago. Now rated 2lbs lower than his last two runs, could step forward here, especially with the booking of the in-form course specialist Richard Kingscote in the saddle.
Lady of Desire is 0 from 4 so far and also hasn't made the frame yet. She was 7th of 11 here over course and distance last time out (2.5 lengths behind Major J and didn't seem to enjoy the step up from 6f. She's 3lbs lighter today, but will probably need more help than that.
The filly Mops Gem has also failed to even make the frame yet from six starts and has only beaten two of the 21 rivals she has faced in her last three outings, the latest of which was a 6 length defeat over 6f at Kempton. She weakened late on that day, which doesn't bode well for a step up in trip, although she does drop in class here.
And to follow the sequence, Orphiuchus is another filly yet to make the frame, although her 5th of 10, 6 lengths off the pace last time out was her best effort to date. She also drops in class to run here and whilst an opening handicap mark of 55 doesn't look too onerous, she's going to have to improve plenty to be involved here, you'd have thought.
As with the above runner, Doctor Churchill drops in class for his handicap debut and sadly like the first four we've looked at, he hasn't made the frame in five starts yet either, having beaten just 11 of his 51 rivals so far. His yard are only 3 from 46 so far this year, albeit 3 from 22 here at Wolverhampton. 54 isn't a high opening mark, but I just don't think he's that good either.
Hallelujah! We're at runner 6 of 11 and we find that The Good Ting has actually made the frame in two of her twelve starts! In fact she has 2 wins from 8 on the A/W so far, including a win by a head last time out where she stayed on well and needed every inch of the 6 furlongs, suggesting the step up in trip might suit. She'd only been beaten by half a length in her previous outing, so it looks like she's running into some form and she's second on the Geegeez ratings. The only negative about her is her yard's lack of winners at this venue : just 2 from 134 since the start of 2016!
Spartakos was third on handicap debut back in August and was only beaten by a length and three quarters last time out in another Class 6, 7f, Tapeta (Newcastle) handicap. He's been rested for the past 20 weeks, though and now re-appears 2lbs lower. If he's ready to go first up, then he has every chance of making the frame based on that last run and the lack of quality in the horses higher up this card!
Desert Mist has been pretty consistent if unspectacular on the Tapeta, finishing 39435 so far, all here at Wolverhampton except that fifth place last out. His last visit here (two starts ago - 8th December) was his best effort to date, going down by a length and a quarter over 6f. He goes off the same mark today, but will need to find more to see the extra distance out. He'll be aided by jockey Connor Murtagh who not only claims 3lbs but is in good form right now, winning 4 of 16 over the last month.
Nodasgoodasawink is interesting here on her second handicap start. Her handlers "acquired" a handicap mark as low as 52 for her after three completely differing races : C5, 6f Std-Slow Polytrack then C5, 5f on Good and finally C4, 1m on Firm. She was then put back in her box for almost 4 months before being asked to run a Class 6 over 7f at Lingfield last Thursday. She clearly needed the run, as she was slow away but caught the eye with a decent second half to the race, making up ground to finish a little more than three lengths behind a horse rated 12lbs better. She goes off 52 again today and I suspect that we'll see a better performance here if she takes to the Tapeta. Her breeding also suggests he's better than 52.
Peppermint Truffle takes us back to the "non-placers with little hope" category, I'm afraid. Three runs to date, all at Class 5 over 7f and finished 13th of 13, 8th of 11 and 8th of 9 (beaten by over 22 lengths) last time out. he hasn't been to Wolverhampton yet, but his first two runs were on Newcastle's Tapeta track and even though he drops in class for a handicap debut carrying no weight (OR = 46), I find it hard to make any form of case for him, unless some miraculous transformation has happened in the 11 days since we last saw him.
Last and quite possibly least of the eleven is Love Baileys, who is guess what? Yes, a filly that has never made the frame yet. Five starts so far and she has beaten just 10 of 43 opponents, but her latest effort was easily her best. She was only sixth of ten, admittedly, but she was within five lengths of the winner here over course and distance three weeks ago and now drops back to Class 6 as she returns to handicaps. That was her first run for new handler Amy Murphy after leaving Richard Fahey and Amy had her in first time cheekpieces and a tongue tie. The tie remains in place, but the cheekpieces are now replaced with first-time blinkers. I can't see it having much effect, but fair play to Ms Murphy, she's trying everything to eke something out of her filly.
As you'll probably have already worked out, there aren't many I like here and I could probably skip directly to the summary. To be honest, Instant Expert isn't going to tell us much about a field that has just 2 wins and 3 places from 58 starts, but here's the place view of IE anyway (just bear in mind that The Good Ting's places were both wins)...
With so many "much of a muchness" types competing here, draw , pace and the pace/draw combo are likely to be more helpful than Instant Expert was. And in previous similar contests, there seems to be a "golden corridor" for winners with the best draws appearing to be stalls 4 to 7, whilst horses who raced prominently or led fared best. It therefore doesn't take a great leap of faith to work that if you've a prominent racer or leader, drawn in 4-7, you could be on to a good thing or a back to lay proposition at worst.
That, of course, isn't to say that hold-up horses can't win from there. The hold up is the worst of the four descriptions to be most accurate about. Plenty of horses aren't hold up horses at all, but are just not quick enough away to be anything but rear runners. Hold up horses have won nearly 31% of the above races, but because their number includes slow horses as well as genuinely held-up runners, they account for nearly 44% of the total runners.
Distinguishing between tactics and a lack of speed is difficult, but we do need to be aware that a hold-up horse might not be one by choice! I certainly wouldn't rule Major J or Nodasgoodasawink out just based on that heat map.
So, where are we? A mediocre looking contest, if truth be told, but there will be a winner and two placers. I'll start by retaining those with previous form ie past placers (The Good Ting, Desert Mist, Spartakos) and to them I'll add Major J, Lady of Desire and Nodasgoodasawink.
That narrows my pack down to six, which is still too many and the first of those to cut will be Spartakos, who I think might just need the run.
All of the above was written pre-3pm, whilst I was expecting The Good Ting to swerve the 3.10 Chelmsford, but she took her place there and finished third despite having to race too wide from a poor draw. She's now unlikely to feature here, but my post-5pm summary will still reference her below.
I left five in a the summary stage for two reasons. Firstly I had very little to separate those I ranked third to fifth and secondly because I've doubts whether The Good Ting will line up here after all (I hadn't realised when I started the piece that she was still down to run at Chelmsford which she duly did).
Before the 3.10 race at Chelmsford today, The Good Ting was my clear pick for this race ahead of Major J. I had very little between Nodasgoodasawink, Lady of Desire and Desert Mist in that order.
As things stand, I can get 5/1 about The Good Ting, but I can't back her now. She's unlikely to run and she does, she's little time to recover. Major J is now my likeliest winner, but he's 11/4 already and with a Rule 4 due to be applied if we back him now or a shorter price later, there's little value there either.
Nod is currently 5/1 with the other two priced at 10's. At present, I don't see a win bet, but I might well have small E/W punts at double digit odds on Lady of Desire (I think Amy Murphy might get more out of this one) and Desert Mist (looks value at the price).