No joy for us on Saturday as the outsider of the field overturned the formbook to win, but we've dusted ourselves to go again for Monday, where we offer the PACE tab freely to all readers for all races including, of course, our free 'races of the day', which are set to be...
- 1.00 Bath
- 2.11 Bath
- 2.50 Down Royal
- 3.10 Curragh
- 4.06 Beverley
- 4.16 Windsor
And the second race on that list is another of those small-field competitive-looking handicaps I like to look at, so my focus here is upon the 2.11 Bath, a 6-runner, Class 4 Flat handicap for 4yo over 5f on Good To Firm ground, that might well be a little firmer in places. It's not a particularly valuable race, but £4,213 will be winging its way to the owners of one of this sextet...
The competitive nature of the race is highlighted the first four in the Geegeez ratings being separated by just two points. Four of the field have at least one win from their last three starts. Four have won here before, five have won at the trip and two have won over course and distance. We've two class droppers and one stepping up, half the field have raced in the last three weeks, whilst the other half have been off track for 5 months, 6 months and 9 months respectively. The official handicapper also sees it as a close affair with just an 8lb weight spread through the field.
Bay Watch only ran four times last season and kicked off with a hat-trick of Class 5 wins over 5f, the first two of which were here at Bath. He ended his campaign with a four length defeat at this grade off a mark of 81. He's now back from a 268 day absence off the same mark and it's the weight I'm more concerned about. He has won his seasonal reappearance in both 2019 and 2020, both here at Bath and both after 260+ layoffs, but he was beaten off today's mark last time out won't have a 7lb claim this time around either, so we're now asking for a career best at the ages of seven.
Union Rose is 4 from 9 over course and distance, but with an 8 from 67 overall record on the Flat, it's fair to say he doesn't win often enough. He ended last season with back to back wins over 5f, but has been disappointing with two unplaced finishes so far this term and was last home of five at Windsor a fortnight ago.
Newyorkstateofmind came back from a four month break to go within a length of winning a Class 3 contest at Lingfield 23 days ago and was unlucky in running getting squeezed for room as the pace picked up last time out. He's actually a pound lower and a class lower than that Lingfield runner-up finish two starts ago and a similar effort puts him right in the mix here, as he bids to win on turf for the first time.
Michaels Choice is 3 from 5 here at Bath and 4 from 5 over 5.5f, but hasn't won any of 10 efforts at today's trip. He has won one of his eight starts on good to firm, but does prefer it softer (2 from 6 on Gd to Soft/Soft). He was last of eight in his final run of 2020, beaten by the thick end of nine lengths over this trip and now steps up in class for his first run in six months. This looks a tall order here.
Second Collection has four wins to her name so far, but hasn't landed the honours in any of her last sixteen outings in a run stretching back to June 2019. She has finished 8th of 9, 5th of 6 and 6th of 9 in her last three starts and although down in class and down 2lbs in the weights, she's clearly not on her game right now, which is unfortunate, as her last win was off a mark 6lbs higher than this, so she clearly has scope.
Secretfact, however, had been bang in form prior to a five month break since early December. He made the frame in six of seven starts to end the year and he's won five times here over course and distance. He was only beaten by a head and a neck at Wolverhampton in his last race and he goes off the same mark here, which is a pound lower than his last C&D success and he won't mind the quick ground as he has 3 wins and 2 places from 8 firm ground runs.
This small field has plenty of past runs to refer back to, including several wins here at Bath also over this trip, on this going, at this class etc etc. The easiest way of comparing their past record is via Instant Expert, of course and here's how this set of runners have fared...
In such a competitive contest, it's hard not to be impressed by Bay Watch's numbers, whilst Secretfact has been pretty useful too, despite not showing any green. We shouldn't ignore the stats for Union Rose or Michaels Choice either, as they've both done fantastically well at this quirky venue, where pace and draw can often be the difference between winning and losing.
In terms of the actual draw stats , the suggestion is that in 29 previous 6-runner contests here on Good to Firm/Firm ground that a mid to high draw is better than being draw in stalls 1 or 2 from both a win and place perspective. Stalls 4 and 6 have performed best for winners, with 3 and 4 being the place to be to make the frame from. All of which is good news for C&D specialist Bay Watch who finds himself in box four here.
According to our racecourse guide for Bath...GeeGeez says: “Bath is the UK’s only racecourse that doesn’t have watering facilities and as a consequence the going is often very fast and can be too much for some horses. The track favours front-runners that can gain a prominent early position in the race. The uncompromising uphill finish can catch out many runners and riders, as can the gusty headwinds that whip around the top of Lansdown Hill"...
This is borne out by the pace stats where leaders and prominent runners are by far the most successful.
It should therefore, be of little surprise to see that the pace/draw heat map is heavily weighted to right hand half of the graphic where the front-runners reside, but as ever, it's not entirely clear cut...
...mid-drawn leaders and non-mid drawn prominent runners don't actually score too highly, whilst there's a good deal of success in highly-drawn hold up horses. This actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. If you're drawn high and you know you've not got early pace, it would then be better to sit back and conserve energy for a charge up the hill late on whilst those who've gone off quickly start to tire.
We already know how these horses tend to run and we can overlay the last four outings (which will include at least one win for most of the field) onto that pace draw heat map above. I like to do this in draw order as opposed to card order, as it can almost give us a bird's eye view of the stalls and first furlong, as follows...
...where we think that Michaels Choice, Secretfact and Union Rose might attempt to set the pace with the first two of those three holding the best of the draw. Well drawn Bay Watch might need to step forward a little, as might Newyorkstateofmind with only Second Collection being really disadvantaged if the above goes to plan.
At the onset, I though this would be a tricky one to call and nothing has changed my mind. You could make a case for all six to win or for any of them to be last home, so at this point, I like to read back what I've put together.
Bay Watch needs a career best here and is 7yrs old coming off a 268 day break and isn't that well off with the pace/draw combo, but goes well fresh and loves it here.
Union Rose also does well here but has run poorly recently. He isn't particularly well drawn and at 9 isn't getting any younger.
Newyorkstateofmind has been running well recently, isn't drawn badly and isn't too far on pace/draw, but hasn't won any of a dozen turf starts.
Michaels Choice has good numbers here at Bath, but all his success has been over a slightly longer trip and he'd prefer softer/slower ground. The fear is he goes off too quickly and burns out.
Second Collection is bang out of form, didn't score that well on Instant Expert and doesn't look good from a pace/draw perspective. She's the easiest to discard here.
Secretfact was in really good form prior to his break, has a good draw and pace/draw make-up and scored reasonably well on IE. Lots of boxes ticked and had a good C&D record, but has never won after a break of more than a month.
There are pros and cons to all six, but based on what I've seen, I'm going to side with Secretfact and just hope he can break that lay-off duck. Aside from not always going well frsh, he has everything else going for him and at 5/1, I think he's worth a quid or two.
As for the runner-up, I'm torn between Bay Watch and Union Rose. Newyorkstateofmind is possibly better than both, but o/12 on the Flat doesn't appeal to me, so of the two I favour more for runner-up, I think bBay Watch's absence is less of an issue to me than Union Rose's recent form, so it's Secretfact and the 7/2 Bay Watch as my top two today.