Fingers crossed for England at the Euros on Wednesday evening, but before I can settle down in front of the telly with some cold refreshments, there's the small matter of Thursday's racing to deal with, because the show always goes on here at Geegeez!
Every day we open up a feature and a selection of races free to all readers, irrespective of their payment/Gold status and for Thursday, the free feature is the Instant Expert tab...
...which is by far the most popular tab in the geegeez racecards. The reason? Its ability to condense the entire form profile of every runner in the race into a single, easily digestible, view. The report covers the form in terms of wins (or places), runs, and win (or place) percentage for each of going, class, course, distance, and field size. It also compares today’s official rating with the horse’s last winning official rating. The display is colour coded: green for a higher percentage rate, amber for a middling percentage, and red for a low percentage. Horses with no form under a certain condition have grey figures.
And that tab is there for all races everyday for Gold members, including the afore-mentioned free races of the day, which for this Thursday are...
- 3.35 Newmarket
- 4.45 Newmarket
- 6.20 Newbury
- 6.30 Epsom
- 8.50 Newbury
The first on that list is by far the best race on paper and although there are only 5 runners and we'll have an odds on favourite, it's still worth looking at, because (a) I expect the Instant Expert tab will hold lots of information and (b) we might find a decent priced E/W option to the fav, so let's head towards the Princess Of Wales's Tattersalls Stakes, which is a 5-runner, Group 2 contest over a mile and a half for horses aged 3 or over. Despite recent poor weather across the country, we're still expecting good to firm ground for the 3.35 Newmarket, which is worth a cool £65,216 to one of this quintet...
All five come here with some decent recent form, as you'd expect for a race at this level, but only Al Aasy has won on the July course at Newmarket before, although Sir Ron Priestley has won on the Rowley here. All bar Bangkok have won over today's 1m4f trip, but he's only tried twice and was prolific over 1m2f. Star Safari looks like he's up 3 classes today, but that's the difference from his last UK run : he has been running at Class 1 in Meydan recently and his trainer, Charlie Appleby has positive icons for both recent form and course form.
Trainers of both Al Aasy and Highest ground also look to be in decent nick, whilst Sir Ron Priestley's yard have a good course record, as do the jockeys aboard Al Aasy and Star Safari, but Franny Norton (Sir Ron Priestley) is having a rare dry spell and is 0 from 27 over the last fortnight (before Wednesday's six rides at Yarmouth, that is). Al Aasy is best off at the weights based on official ratings and although Sir Ron Priestley concedes 3lbs to the field, he's next best at the weights ahead of Bangkok, Star Safari and then Highest Ground.
Sir Ron Priestley carries top weight here and had seven wins and a runner-up finish from nine starts from mid-April 2019 to his win in the Gr2 Jockey Club Stakes on the Rowley here on the 1st May when he beat Pyledriver (who then beat Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup) by 2.25 lengths. he was too keen at York just 13 days later and then next/last time out, he really wasn't suited by tackling soft ground for the first time at Ascot, beaten by over 7 lengths in the Hardwicke. He's back on preferred Good to Firm ground, he excels in small fields, gets the trip easily enough and has a great record with today's jockey. We should see him back to something like his best here.
Al Aasy is clearly the one to beat here and prior to going down by a neck in the Coronation Cup last time out, he had won four of his five previous starts. He's 3 from 4 at Gr3, but hasn't yet raced at Gr2, but that Coronation Cup run says he's more than up to it. If I have any reservations about him here, it's the quick ground. Most of his racing has been done on ground softer than Good and his only previous good to firm effort saw him beaten by over 10 lengths on the Rowley here last summer.
Bangkok won a Gr3 on good to firm ground at Sandown way back in April 2019 and it's over a year since his last effort on ground this quick, when he was last home of seven at Sandown. In his defence he was only 7 lengths or so off the winner and it was the Gr1 Coral Eclipse, where he carried 3lbs more than the runner-up Enable who was rated 14lbs higher than Bangkok, but only beat him by 5 lengths, so it wasn't a bad run. That said, his best form has been on the all-weather, but he does get this trip even if all his best work has been at 1m2f.
Highest Ground, like Sir Ron Priestley, seems to love this quicker ground, having won both efforts on good to firm so far, whilst he's only 1 from 5 elsewhere. He hasn't won anything higher than a Class 3 contest and was well beaten (10.5L) in the Gr2 Hardwicke LTO, but again soft ground was at play. We should get a better idea of where he's at here, but I'm undecided about him so far.
Star Safari completes the line-up and his UK form loks a bit bare. 10th of 18, beaten by over 10 lengths in a Class 4, 1m maiden on the Rowley in late September 2018 was followed 13 days later by a win in another C4 maiden, but over 8.5f at Nottingham and that's his entire UK career. Since then, he was beaten by three lengths in a Listed race at Deauville before finishing 131 in three handicaps (1m2f, 1m2f & 1m4f) at Meydan. He then won a Gr3 over 1m2f there and his last race was just over three months ago, when beaten by six lengths over today's trip in a Gr1 contest. The only question here is can he bring that Meydan turf form to the UK?
Based on the above, I think that we lack in terms of quantity, we've made up for quality and none of these are no-hopers and Al Aasy isn't a shoo-in at this point either (not for me, anyway!). Now to the feature of the day, Instant Expert, which will hopefully corroborate much of what I've just written!
And Bangkok's lack of Flat success is clearly highlighted above, as is Star Safari's pure lack of UK action. We said Highest Ground hadn't won beyond Class 3, which is worrying. Al Aasy is largely untried on quick ground and Sir Ron Priestley might never get a more favourable set of conditions to race under. If only he wasn't conceding 3lbs to the field...
As for the draw...
I expect the going to be towards the good side of god to firm and have adjusted my setting accordingly and in 29 previous similar contests, the stats suggest that the higher the draw, the better chance there is for both winning and finishing as runner-up, which doesn't bode particularly well for Bangkok or Star Safari, but better for Al Aasy, Sir Ron Priestley & Highest Ground.
As regards to the pace/race positioning of those 29 races above, those who have led and set the fractions have done far better winning 31.1% of the races from just 21.5% of the runners. Prominent racers have scored slightly above par providing 44.8% of the winners from 42.4% of runners, whilst hold-up horses haven't done nearly as well with a third of the runners only contributing 24.1% of the winners. We've only had 4 mid-division runners in those 29 races, so those figures for that style are inconclusive at best...
When we look at how these five have raced in the past...
Sir Ron Priestley looks like he's going to be the one to set the pace here with the fav biding his time. And when we combine those running styles with the pace stats and the draw data, we can order the field into stalls and get an overview of how we see those pieces of information working with each other as follows...
None of the five look massively inconvenienced here on pace/draw make-up. The Johnston horse looks set to be afforded a soft/easy lead and that could be dangerous for Al Aasy, as Franny Norton is an excellent judge of the pace from the front and if they approach this like they did the Jockey Club Stakes in May, they might not get caught!
Al Aasy is the one to beat here, but he's certainly no shoo-in like the 8/13 price tag would suggest he is. He's unproven on the going and might have a lot of ground to make up, so I can't/won't be backing him here. Bangkok is better on the A/W and Star Safari's ability to transfer form from overseas is questionable. That leaves me with Highest Ground and Sir Ron Priestley. Highest Ground will also be held up with Al Aasy and although he'll "get" the ground, he hasn't won beyond Class 3 and I don't see him beating the fav.
So, Sir Ron? Yes!
Instant Expert says yes.
He beat Pyledriver : another yes
Drawn high? Yes
Likes to lead? Yes
Lots to like about Sir Ron Priestley here, I'm concerned about the extra 3lbs, of course, but at 11/2 in a 5-horse race, there could be some real value there. Al Aasy will come at him hard late on, but I hope he can hold the fav off. Sir Ron should make the frame, I hope he wins and for those that way inclined a back to lay option might be on the cards?
PLEASE NOTE : I'm out on family business for most of Thursday, so my preview of Friday's racing will appear later than usual!