It's been a decent few weeks for the Saturday TV tips. A fortnight ago, Ebor day was illuminated when 22/1 Vent De Force (returned 16/1) won the '3yo Ebor', the Melrose Handicap. And last Saturday, Ocean Tempest was a 14/1 winning pick (returned 10/1) and Fintry (13/8, returned 6/4) was a very confident selection - and backed accordingly!
So, Sod's Law dictates we're due a clunker, but that's not how we roll here at geegeez.co.uk and I have a couple of fair fancies for the telly races, starting in the...
This Group 3 was won two years ago by Dandino, and last year by Prince Bishop, both of which re-engage this time. Dandino ran a fine race in America last time out, in another contest he'd previously won, the American St Leger. There's little doubt he's being conserved for an Autumn campaign down under, and just a couple of weeks after that Stateside trip I'm happy enough to oppose Marco Botti's consistent old stager.
I find it much harder to overlook the credentials of Prince Bishop, a horse that has won both starts here at Kempton, and was in Group 1-winning form earlier in the year on an artificial surface in Meydan. He has a very sexy 'line of green' Instant Expert profile, is versatile as regards pace (in a race where at least one - Battalion - looks like making it a proper test), and goes well fresh (he won this last year after a break since Dubai).
Although jockey bookings suggest a different pecking order, Secret Number has a year layoff to defy, and his trainer states he'll come on for the run. That doesn't mean he can't win, but a quote of 7/2 versus 8/1 Prince Bishop looks all wrong... unless I'm missing something.
There is a third Godolphin entry in the field, Cat O'Mountain, and he - like Prince Bishop - has been off since running in the Dubai World Cup. He ran a gallant third that day, the Prince down the field, but on the pick of their respective form, Mr Bishop is a better horse than Mr O'Mountain.
Red Cadeaux is a horse everyone loves, but there's no way he should be 4/1. In four runs at Kempton, he's finished 8722, and I don't see him having the necessary finishing capability to trouble the boys in blue (cue facile success).
Even with the seven pound penalty, Prince Bishop has a robust looking profile, and 8/1 is big value... unless, as I say, I'm missing something.
In the absence of Brendan Bracken, six runners will contest this mile Group 3, and the market has it as a three horse race between Captain Cat, Ocean Tempest and Short Squeeze. I'm a big fan of all three, but I feel one is superior - pardon the pun - to the other two.
Captain Cat should have won last time, of that there's little doubt, and the clumsy ride by normally foot-perfect James Doyle has seen him usurped by George Baker for the mount this time. In truth, he's riding elsewhere - at both Ascot and Kempton - so it's possible this was agreed rather than foisted upon the emerging talent. Either way, Baker is an excellent rider and is as unlikely to make a mistake as Doyle would have been to repeat his carelessness the last day.
Prior to the Cat's gold-turned-bronze effort in the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood, he'd run up a pair of progressive wins. The first was the valuable All Weather Mile Championship race, and he followed that up in the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury. That was an easy win, and he was travelling like the easy winner last time too before Doyle's tardy move for the accelerator pedal cost him. I think he'll bag this, plain and simple.
Ocean Tempest performed heroics for us last Saturday, even after missing the break. A habitual front-runner, I concede that I felt that was curtains, but he showed class and guts to lug a huge weight to victory. He'll lead here, almost certainly, but this is a classier affair against better horses, and I expect the Cat who is Captain to stalk and pounce, in ferociously feline fashion. The Tempest, for his part, would probably want some rain to be seen to best effect in any case (best form on soft).
Short Squeeze was uber-impressive in his steering job victory at York a fortnight ago - tipped up on this 'ere blog (I told you I was a fan of all three and, yes, that's largely talking through my pocket!). To say it all went right for him that day is to understate how the race fell in his lap, and he might just not get the fast pace he'd be ideally suited to. Essentially, he's a galloper, which is why he seemed to win so easily there: his one pace brought him back into things after those with gears early had burned their fuel. At least, that's my reading of it.
I'm backing Captain Cat, and I reckon 7/4 is all right.
A seventeen runner mile and three quarters handicap, and one in which the draw is being whinged about. By a trainer who won the race with a horse drawn within neighing distance of his charge's stall this time around. The whinging trainer is Luca Cumani, and the car park horse is Havana Cooler, 5/1 clear favourite for the race.
In 2011, Bauer lugged a big weight from stall twelve to triumph, and this time Havana Cooler has box sixteen. It may be sub-optimal, but for a horse that generally races mid-division it ought not to be the difference between success and failure. Cumani's nag, who was balloted out of the Ebor two weeks ago when strongly fancied, has an obvious chance without being a value play. He must surely be in the first five or so, but there is one at twice the price I like more - at the available odds anyway.
Hassle is his name. Clive Cox's consistent stayer has won four of his last eight races, a sequence that began in a Class 5 maiden and ended in a Class 3 handicap over this trip at Ascot. He's since been placed twice at a quarter mile further, and the 'turn back play', as it's known in the States, could work well here. With three of those four wins over this trip and on this sort of ground, there are no worries on those scores.
Class is an imponderable, as he's yet to get his head in front in this grade. Moreover, he's been elevated three pounds for being beaten the last twice. Despite that, there is reason to believe that conditions will play to his strengths, and a wide draw (14) ought not to be a hindrance for a hold up type in a race concluding down Haydock's long straight and with a near guaranteed end-to-end gallop.
He's 10/1 BOG with one firm (Boylesports) at the time of writing, and I've backed him - yes, I've had more bets on the telly heats than I normally do! That said, I wasn't allowed much on, so I'm hoping he shows at a double figure price elsewhere before the race is off.
Quest For More is another with an obvious chance. Down at the bottom of the handicap and drawn in three, he won't fail for weight or post position, and he has a gradually upwardly mobile profile. Trip and grade are fine too, and he could go close without winning. Or he could win, though not with my beans behind him.
In a race that has almost exclusively been the preserve of the fancied runners, I'm struggling to make a case for many at prices, and I'd be disappointed not to at least cash the place part of my each way Hassle ticket.
Seventeen are due to contest this last Group 1 sprint of the domestic season (next year, when the Champions Day sprint is upgraded to G1 status, it will be the penultimate), run over six furlongs. It's a race that tends to favour fresh horses and, importantly, it's run over a furlong further than the King's Stand Stakes and the Nunthorpe.
The brilliant Sole Power has won both of those races this season, but he's never won over six, and he's had seven tries. Jockey Richard Hughes says he's not worried but that's got to be some serious BS from the champ about a horse with such a natural finishing kick at the minimum. The pair of them might make me eat those words - far from a first, I assure you! - but at 3/1 he absolutely MUST be taken on.
That begs the question, "With what?", so let's attempt to fathom that one. Winning form at the trip has been a hallmark of almost all recent Sprint Cup victors, with the French raider African Rose and Eric Alston's Reverence notable exceptions. The great stallion, Diktat, was the only other winner since 1997 not to have scored over six previously, and it might be relevant that both he and African Rose were stepping back from seven, rather than up from five. The old 'turn back play' again...
A top four last time out looks a given - fifteen of the last seventeen satisfied that criteria, with twelve finishing in the top two - as does a beast aged three to five (15/17).
Although age didn't weary Markab and Nuclear Debate, they were the only two six-year-old-plus winners of this since Boldboy in 1977, which rather dents confidence for those liking Maarek, Gordon Lord Byron, Sole Power, Tropics or Dinkum Diamond. Given that list takes in three of the first four in the betting, you might see where I'm going with this...
Music Master is the one to be with, I think. Trainer Henry Candy, responsible for the aforementioned Markab, knows a good sprinter when he has one, and this is the second time he's faced his Piccolo colt into Group 1 company. On the first occasion, Music Master was a game fourth, having run in a small near side group far from the main action. Since then he's had a single race, winning a Group 3 at this distance and on this ground.
Still only a four year old, and out of the first four just once at six furlongs - subsequently found to be sick that day - Music Master has that bonus seven furlong form, which means he'll be staying on down Haydock's interminable straight when plenty have squealed enough.
I could mention numerous others - it's a big field Group 1 after all - but I'll stick to two. Cougar Mountain has had just three runs in his career, and has already run a three length fifth in the Group 1 July Cup and a two length ninth in the Group 1 Nunthorpe. His proximity to the winner on both runs gives him a chance, though the number of horses that beat him each time leaves him susceptible. Still, he's a massive talent and a step forward would put him bang there.
Talking of massive, Caspar Netscher is a massive price - 100/1 - and he might run like that's on the skinny side, rather than a value play. But he won a six furlong Group 2 back in the day, before flopping (literally) at stud, and he's been running better than finishing positions suggest in recent starts. It's a long shot, but he's still only five and may give us a bit of a buzz for a furlong or two. Oh yeah, and he's another of those that stays seven... 😉
Good luck with your Saturday wagers!