Friday marks the end of April, the year is whizzing by now! Our feature of the day is the horses for courses report, whilst our free races of the day are as follows...
- 2.20 Chepstow
- 4.05 Musselburgh
- 4.25 Goodwood
- 5.35 Cheltenham
- 6.00 Punchestown
- 8.15 Cheltenham
And I think we'll head off to West Sussex, where I've noticed another of those tricky, tight 7-runner handicaps where several should have a chance of winning. On your cards, it's the 4.25 Goodwood, a Class 4, 4yo+, flat handicap over a testing 1m6f on good to firm ground that they'll be watering to keep it that way. Top prize here is £4,860 and it will go to one of...
We've no last time out winners and only Thai Terrier and Prince Imperial have won in their last four outings. The latter is the only class mover in the field dropping down two grades, whilst Solar Screen makes both a handicap debut and a yard debut for David Simcock, who I believe does well with Flat stayers (more on that shortly, if I've remembered that correctly).
Platitude is the only previous course and distance winner, but three others have at least won over this trip, no other course winners, mind. Four of the field have raced in the past four weeks, whilst the others have been absent for 6 months or more and Solar Screen & Zuba look well clear on the Geegeez ratings.
Thai Terrier carries top weight here, wears number 1 and will run from stall 1. He ended 2020 with a run of four runner-up finished over trips ranging from 1m4f to 2m0.5f before winning at Chelmsford over 2m in January. He hasn't been the same since after 5lb rise and has incurred defeats of 6L, 30L and 20L in three outings. He's down 3lbs here, but that's still higher than his last win and he wouldn't be an obvious winner for me, dropping back in trip.
Prince Imperial ended his last campaign by finishing 3rd over 1m3,5f at bath and then he won at the same track over today's 1m6f trip/class. He was gelded over the winter and looked like he needed the run at Kempton earlier this month, when beaten by seven lengths. In his defence, he was stepping up to Class 2 (back at C4 here) for the first time, tackling 2m for the first time and he'd never run at Kempton before.
Throw in a 4lb weight rise and a 173 day absence and you'd have to say he did well to get within 7 lengths. He's a real contender for me here, plus Frankel's offspring are 39/118 (33% SR, A/E 1.50) in Class 4 handicaps including 8 from 10 over 1m6f/1m6.5f.
Platitude won here at class/track/trip off a mark 22lbs higher than today. Sadly, that was a month shy of 3 years ago and he hasn't won any of 21 starts since and had a really poor season last time around and hasn't been seen of 201 days, but all is not lost! He has run well fresh in the past, he's now on his lowest mark ever and his best form has been here at Goodwood. Good to Firm is his preferred going and 1m6f is probably his optimum trip, whilst he is 2 from six over course and distance. He could actually go well here today, but he could also bomb out!
Orin Swift similarly comes off a long break and is also on a long losing run. It's 2 years to the day and a dozen races since he won at this class/trip at Nottingham off a mark just 1lb lower than today and he ran creditably in defeat last season. His problem seems to be that when he runs well, he narrowly fails and manages to find one or two just too good for him, whilst on a bad day, he gets beaten by a long distance. Either way, I won't be rushing to back him just yet.
Solar Screen is very lightly raced and was only seen once as a 2yr old when beaten by just under five lengths over a mile on soft ground at Newmarket (Class 2). He reappeared nine months later in a 4/5 length defeat as a runner-up over 1m4f at Doncaster and was 3rd of 10 last time out. Now returning from 258 days off track off a reasonably fair opening mark of 79 for a yard debut under David Simcock, I'd expect him to give a good account of himself.
The yard will have done the fitness work needed and they excel at this sort of contest with 16 winners from 57 (28% SR, A/E 1.52) with handicappers over 1m5f to 1m6.5f since the start of 2019, whilst from a breeding perspective, Golden Horn offspring are 46 from 147 (31.3% SR, A/E 1.31) beyond 1m3f.
Zuba signed off last season by finishing 3rd of 10 at Kempton over 1m4f in October, but has sharpened his fitness over the winter with three efforts over hurdles, the latest just 19 days ago when beaten by 8 lengths. Ability-wise, he has the potential to make the frame here, but his application on the Flat has often been found wanting and he has yet to win in this sphere after 11 starts.
Cry Wolf is probably the worst on show here, if I'm brutally honest. An overall record of 4 from 43 isn't brilliant, but take out his 4 from 26 on the A/W and his Flat/hurdles form stands at 0 wins and just 1 place from 17 attempts. He hasn't raced on turf since mid-August 2019 when last of 8, beaten by 33 lengths over 1m4f at Newbury and although 13 lbs lower here, I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar result.
At this point, there's only Cry Wolf that I'm ruling out of contention, but I do already like some more than others. So, I then turned to Instant Expert to look at how they'd all previously performed under today's conditions and if I'm honest, I didn't see much I didn't already know...
...but the place form gave more information to help us...
Not many are proven on ground this quick, but Platitude's historical numbers are good and Zuba looks like a nearly-there horse. Thai Terrier, Zuba and Orin Swift are regular placers at Class 4 and the latter seems to like it here at Goodwood, as does Platitude, who has struggled at the trip, though. Yet the most striking thing about Platitude is that mark of 80 : I'm torn between the "he's finished" thought and the line of reasoning that says he weighted to win. I'm not mentioned Frankels lad, Prince Imperial, because there's no much to go at, but he has done well.
Hopefully draw, pace and the pace/draw combo will clear things up in my mind? The draw stats are based on a small sample size and whilst not massively conclusive, they'd suggest stalls 2 to 5 might be the place to be...
The pace stats are a little clearer, however, and the consensus here that it's best to try and be in control and the ace yourself and set the fractions from the front...
...whilst from a place perspective, the further back you race, the harder it is to make the frame, as leaders have placed 46.1% of the time as opposed to the 21.4% for hold-up horses. And when we combine pace and draw together, we're told that the best combo is mid to high drawn leaders with a 33% record, whilst all other racing styles for high draws have performed poorly.
And when we look at our runners' past running styles and arrange them in draw order, we can overlay them onto that heat map for some indication of how it might all pan out.
Unfortunately, there's not a great deal of pace in the race, so this might be a falsely run affair. That said, Thai Terrier did set the pace last time out, orin Swift has been known to lead and Solar Screen has raced prominently in all three starts to date, so I'd expect them to take it on and I predict Zuba and Prince Imperial might "shift to the right a little" to not be too far off the pace.
A tight-looking interesting contest, even if it's not top quality. I don't really fancy either of Orin Swift and Cry Wolf, which narrows the field down to five for me. At this point, I think I know who I like most/least of the five, it's just the middle I'm struggling with. For me, Thai Terrier is the weakest of the five and the one I'd want to be with is the son of Frankel, Prince Imperial. He's currently 4/1 and I think that's a good price.
After that, I've got a struggle on my hands to separate Platitude, Solar Screen and Zuba. I think Solar Screen is a bit short at 9/4, but Zuba is as long as 16's in places. I've just got a sneaking suspicion that Platitude might nick second, though. At 7/2 or 4/1, he's not particularly attractive, so I'd only have him for forecast purposes. What I would suggest you consider is 12/1 e/w about Zuba with Betfred, as they're paying 3 places.