Speed May Be Favoured In Tough Doncaster Handicap

The 2.10 at Doncaster on Friday is an interesting race not just because there are some lightly raced, progressive types on show. This race will be a rare run over 6.5f so let’s first see whether some of the more recent winners of this race were more 6f types or more comfortable over 7f.

2019 – Enjazaat – Thirteen of his fourteen races were over 6f, this 6.5f distance was the furthest distance he went.
2018 – Von Blucher – Won handicaps over a mile, 7f and this 6.5f trip but was never successful in nine races over shorter (needed every inch of this trip to get up).
2017 – Amazour – Other than a win at this trip, he also won three times at 6f and three times at 7f so seemed equally effective at both trips.
2016 – Normandy Barriere – Had placed form at 7f but this 6.5f trip was the furthest he won over and five of his six wins came at 6f.
2015 – Hoof It – Poor in all five runs at 7f or further and other than winning at this trip, all ten of his other wins came at 6f or shorter.
2014 – Badr Al Badoor – Unsuccessful in five runs over 7f (did place though) and her three other wins came at 6f.
2013 – Sir Reginald – Unsuccessful in seventeen runs over further than 6.5f and his two other wins came at 6f (also had a much better place ratio at 6f compared to 7f).
2012 – Cape Classic – Had some decent placed form at 7f but failed to win at that distance in ten attempts whereas he had a 50% strike rate at shorter than 7f.
2011 – Sirius Prospect – Won over as far as a mile but also had five wins over this distance of 6.5f or shorter.
2010 – Irish Heartbeat – Won twice over a mile (no wins over 7f) but had also won over 5f the previous season.

The above seems to show that this race rides more like a 6f race than a 7f race with speed over shorter a valuable asset for potential winners.

The Runners


He’s found himself in no man’s land with his rating, not well enough handicapped for the big handicaps and not good enough to win at listed or Group 3 level. He was well beaten in a Newbury handicap two starts ago where only one winner has emerged from seventeen runs, and that was on a different surface. So off just a 3lb lower mark he’d have to massively up his game to be involved here.

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A surprise winner of the Silver Wokingham this season at Ascot on his first start at 6f. He ran at Ascot again over 7f on his most recent start but even if you go all the way back to 16th place in that race, only one winner has emerged from twenty-five runs and that came at a different distance. He’s always struggled off this sort of mark and is likely to find many of these too quick.


Not the most consistent profile but he has some decent form to his name. When winning his maiden he gave 5lbs and a 3.5 length beating to Dark Regard, now rated 88, so a mark of 95 may not be beyond him. On his most recent win, off an 8lb lower mark, he beat a subsequent winner (Musicality who reopposes here) by 2.75 lengths so he has some good recent form in the book too.

His latest flop came on his first go on soft ground, the race in which Musicality came out and won. He has won on good to soft before but it’s possible the very soft ground was against him that day.

On his seasonal debut he was 3rd in a race that has worked out pretty well.

The winner of that race has since won at listed level, the runner up was 2nd again next time and the 4th has run well in defeat since.


His form ties in quite closely with Byline. That rival gave Musicality 1lb and a 2.75 length beating on good to firm ground before Musicality beat Byline by 7 lengths in receipt of 8lbs on soft ground when Byline didn’t seem to run to form.

Musicality has a much more consistent profile than Byline and more scope for improvement having never been out the first two in just four starts. He has now won on both soft ground and good to firm so looks likely to give his running once again.

Now getting 1lb once again from Byline, he’s no guarantee to beat that runner if Byline can bounce back but that’s obviously no certainty, even on better ground here.


Finding the right distance for this runner has proved a challenge in the past as he’s been tried over as far as 10f but for current connections he has raced solely at 7f. He’s yet to finish out of the first two for David Loughnane when completing, winning his debut for the trainer before unseating the jockey when exiting the stalls on his following start. He’s finished runner up on two runs since.

His last run came just a week ago so no runners have been able to show the strength of that form since but his previous race has been working out okay.

Tranchee himself gave the form a boost with his follow up 2nd whilst the 3rd finished in the same position again next time in a similar race and the 7th, Cold Stare, won next time out.

He’s yet to run at shorter than 7f but he’s got plenty of speed and has looked worth a try over a stiff 6f so this could end up being ideal. It’s worth noting that his best form seems to have come on soft ground or artificial surfaces but he’s had few goes on faster ground and is bred to improve for it compared to soft. The sire’s offspring have a 10% strike rate on soft (-22.15 LSP) compared to 17.87% on good to firm (0.69 LSP).


This 3yo has largely been campaigned over 7f, trying shorter just once when competing over this course and distance at this meeting last year in the big field sales race. He looked as if he’d prefer a bit further that day so it is no surprise he’s been kept to further since.

He has been well enough beaten on his last two starts at handicap level, the latest coming in an okay race with plenty of places since but no winners from seven runs. He only beat one runner that day though and almost certainly needs to drop more than 4lbs from that.


Possibly a huge handicap blot here. On his first start of 2019 he was 2nd to Group 1 winner Nazreef (rated 116), beaten just 1.25 lengths. Lyndon B, who would rate as high as 97 later that season was 6 lengths further back in 3rd.

If there were any worries that run was a fluke he backed that effort up when winning next time. It was only novice company but in hindsight another extremely strong race.

He beat Posted by 0.5 lengths and that runner has since been competitive in Group races, now rating as high as 105.

For Ghalyoon to still be rated in the high 80s looked an absolute gift going into his handicap debut, here at Doncaster a few weeks ago, despite coming back from a 399 day layoff. Ghlayoon found the line coming too quickly though, staying on late with purpose and only going down by 0.25 lengths to Magical Wish, who finished a close 2nd on his next start despite probably finding the ground slightly against him next time out.

Ghalyoon has generously only be raised 1lb for that effort and still looks very well handicapped but he doesn’t look a speedy type and looks best served by a strong gallop over 7f.


Yet to win a handicap and unsuccessful in his last sixteen runs but he has been runner up in his last three handicap efforts. He’s only been raised 3lbs for those performances meaning he’s still 19lbs below his peak rating so the handicap mark shouldn’t be a huge issue.

The races in which he has finished 2nd look solid but unremarkable so he’d be a contender here if putting his best foot forward but it’s worth noting there was plenty of cut in the ground on all recent starts and this drying ground is likely to be against him.


Successful twice in three runs this season after a frustrating 2019 campaign. The 2nd and 3rd from his latest win have finished 2nd and 1st respectively in their next starts and considering he won that race by over 2 lengths a 7lb rise looks pretty fair. He looks a relatively strong stayer at 6f so the extra half furlong should be no issue.

Drying ground is a valid concern though as he’s failed to win in four runs on good or faster ground and he’ll be worth following when the mud is flying again.

Broken Spear

Without a win in his last thirteen handicap starts and has only dropped 9lbs in that time. He has placed on his last two starts but those have come in weaker looking races than this. There have been nine subsequent runs from the competition in his last two starts and none of those have placed.

Sunset Breeze

He's been a ‘typical Sir Mark Prescott improver’ this season despite racing at a much shorter distance to many of his stable mates. He completed a handicap hat trick earlier in the season in races that haven’t really worked out brilliantly.

He found a rise to class 2 too much for him at Newmarket in July, finishing 6th of 17 in a race where none of the first eight finishers have won since. It looked as though he might find a mark of 87 too high going forward but he seemed to improve for 7f last time out, going down by just a neck. He runs off the same mark here and is due to go up 5lbs in the future so it can’t be argued that he’s not well handicapped.

Pace and Draw

There aren’t a huge amount of races run over this distance at Doncaster so looking at data for this particular distance isn’t going to reveal any huge course biases. On good ground, a central stall has been advantageous over both 6f and 7f with high draws generally slightly better than low so we are likely to see the same trend over this trip.

An aggregate of the last two runs suggest possible lone speed here (from Byline) but it’s worth noting that Sunset Breeze contested the pace last time out. Tranchee is also likely to be very close to the lead early on.


With a middle draw and a half decent pace to aim at Ghalyoon would have been a confident selection to win this if the race was being run over 7f. This race has tended to go to speedier types in the past though and as he heads the market it just seems a little too much risk at the price. It would be no surprise if he is a staying on 3rd or 4th here.

It is possible that Ghalyoon is ridden more handily this time around to negate the drop back in trip and he does look really well handicapped so it’s with a heavy heart he is passed over and I wouldn’t put anyone off at least a saver on this runner.

Musicality is clearly progressive and wouldn't be a surprise winner but he’s no sure thing to beat Byline, who is more than twice the price of Musicality, so the value seeker in me tends to prefer Byline of that pair. He’s no guarantee to give his running though unfortunately so isn’t selected for a bet.

Sunset Breeze is another with a decent chance but he’s yet to race on turf faster than good to soft and this is a quick enough turn around for him.

This certainly won’t be my most confident bet of the week but Tranchee is the one that interests me most at the price. He’s unproven over this trip, and on this ground to a certain extent, but he’s bred to enjoy a sounder surface and shapes as though a drop back in trip will suit. His form is solid enough, he’s been progressive for current connections and taking a lead off a decent pace over this trip might just see him at his absolute best. He's not yet the 6f type that normally does well in this race but he could yet develop into a good sprinter.

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18 replies
  1. Chris Worrall
    Chris Worrall says:

    Interesting stuff as ever, Sam. I’d picked Musicality and the draw suggested he might dragged along by the pace either side of him.

    That said, I couldn’t find my own backside with both hands right now, so if nothing else happens, I’ve reduced the field by one for the readers 😉

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      Hey Chris, Musicality could easily win this – as could many! He’s got a lovely profile and you’d assume he’s going to rate a fair bit better. My hesitation with him is he seemingly hasn’t beaten a whole lot, which isn’t his fault at all. I would assume Man Of Promise, who he beat last time, is probably quite decent but that’s an assumption.

      All I know with this race for sure is I’ll be kicking myself if Ghalyoon wins as I really like him at everything except the distance.

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      They’ve wanted to edge across to the stands side most of the week so I don’t think stall 11 will be a disadvantage. Based on what we’ve seen this week so far very high would probably be better than very low. With Byline it’s the consistency that worries me. He’d be a great bet at the price if you knew he would return to the form of his penultimate run but that doubt is probably built into the price to be fair.

  2. michaelcft
    michaelcft says:

    A fascinating race and brilliant analysis as all week so far. Certainly got the value last night with Tranchee at 8s but also going to back Sunset Breeze. Hoping that the extra 100 yards over the 6f he’s only won at so far will suit on this better ground.

  3. Matteo
    Matteo says:

    I was sure today would be the day!
    Very impressive analysis on the most difficult types of races, thanks a lot

  4. michaelcft
    michaelcft says:

    Another great tip from Sam. We all have the same superb Geegeez tools but if only we could all use it with the same insight as Sam shows. Very pleased with the run of Sunset Breeze but kicking myself for leaving it too late to get on the Reverse F/C and was shut out as about to press the button! Looking forward to tomorrow’s analysis from Sam.

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      Thanks Michael, Sunset Breeze ended up costing me a tricast so I’m not so pleased that he went fine on the ground 🙂 He fully deserved his finishing position though.

      Just waiting on a few more bookies to price up the opening race at Doncaster tomorrow and then the next preview can go live.

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