Saturday's race was a so-so affair for me, I was interested in Southfield Stone (non-runner), Kalooki (3rd) and Next Destination (won). I wasn't on the winner as I didn't think he offered particularly good value at 2/1, but going off at 11/8 I got that one wrong.
And so to Monday where the Pace tab is available for all races and we offer four free full racecards for...
- 12.45 Fakenham
- 1.55 Kempton
- 2.10 Ayr
- 3.50 Wolverhampton
It's going to be heavy going at Ayr, so that's where we're heading today for that 2.10 Ayr, a 6-runner, Class 3, Novices Chase for 5yo+ over 3m on Heavy with a top prize of £6,758...
Of the four with a chase run behind them, Empire Steel & Hear No Evil top the Geegeez ratings. Both horses have had the benefit of a recent run as both have won in the last five weeks. Skandiburg has also made a seasonal bow but was only fourth 45 days ago.
Oh No, Mayo Star and Skiddaw Tara havent been seen for at least nine months and the latter two are making their chase debut today (hence no geegeez rating), but both ended last season with a win over hurdles, whereas Oh No's form was decidedly poor.
Only Skandiburg runs at the same class as last time out, with four runners stepping up from Class 4, whilst Oh No moves up two grades. He's going to be 100/1 or bigger and I'm crossing him off right now.
Plenty of trainer positives for Empire Steel, Mayo Star and Skiddaw tara, whilst Hear No Evil is a negative here, but he scores well on the jockey form as do all the others bar Skandiburg to be honest.
Skandiburg's fourth place LTO suggests he'll be no match for the two LTO winners, so finishing third at best makes him of no interest to me today either, so we take just four runners into Instant Expert : two LTO chase winners and two chase debutants...
Not much heavy ground form to go off, but Empire Steel and Mayo Star are both 2 from 2 on soft ground, none of these have raced at Class 3 yet, but Empire Steel was 2 from 3 at Class 4 whilst Hear No Evil was 3 from 6 at that grade. Both LTO winners (Empire Steel & Hear No Evil) are rated considerably higher this time around which is understandable for the latter winning by 9.5 lengths, but Empire only prevailed by 2.5 lengths and steps up by almost three quarters of a mile here.
With such a step up in trip, Empire Steel might run a different way to last time, but based on the evidence we do, here's how we see the race shaping up...
Prominent racers have won 10 (50%) of the 20 races fitting my criteria above, whilst the other three running styles have shared the other ten wins fairly evenly, which suggests Empire Steel and Mayo Star could have the best positions to win. If we've got the above right, then the outsider Oh No should lead off and give the next two a good tow into the race, setting them up for a finish. However, there's a possibility/tendency in these small fields for them to take each other on too early, paving the way for the likes of Hear No Evil to pounce late as he did at Wetherby to good effect last time out.
So, where are we with this quartet?
Empire Steel is up in weight, trip and class after a win last time out, but he's lightly raced (131 in three runs so far) and won over 3m1f on soft ground over hurdles before finishing third over this track and trip in another hurdles contest prior to winning here on chase debut LTO. Trip looked a bit short LTO, so should relish the step back up.
Hear No Evil landed a chase victory LTO on his fifth attempt. It was a big improvement upon his previous form and it's unclear if there's more to come from him. To be fair most of his best work has been over shorter trips on quicker ground despite that 3m0.5f soft ground win last time. Yard has struggled for form with just 1 win from 79 in the last 14 weeks, but that winner was hear No Evil ridden by today's jockey Sean Bowen who goes well here.
Mayo Star finished his bumper campaign with a runner-up slot followed by a win and his form over hurdles reads 3211. He's 2 from 2 since switching yards, 2/2 on soft, 1/1 on heavy and 1/1 Ayr. Jockey Brian Hughes' suggests he's yard number 1 ahead of Skiddaw Tara and Brian has 3 wins and 3 places from 7 on this horse. If he takes to chasing first up, he could have a real chance here.
And Skiddaw Tara, who looks to be the yard's second string, makes up the final four. He doesn't have an impressive hurdles record, if I'm honest and although he did win last time out, his hurdling was sketchy at best. More will certainly be needed here on chase debut. I have no doubts about his stamina or the ground, but jumpers have to be able to jump. That erratic display last time out coupled with a chasing bow as second string leads me to place him outside of the top three here.
I don't like backing shorties as you know, but I should have taken 2/1 about Saturday's winner so it's one bitten, twice shy and I've taken 2/1 about Empire Steel here. I don't see much between Hear No Evil and Mayo Star, but I think I'd rather be with the chase debutant rather than the one I have trip/going doubts about hailing from an out of form yard. So I'd say that Mayo Star edges it as the one likeliest to beat the favourite.