Lord North and Frankie Dettori win the Bet365 Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket from Beringer. 28/9/2019 Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Stroke Of Luc Required In The 2020 Cambridgeshire Handicap

The Cambridgeshire is undoubtedly the big betting race of the day on Saturday and it’s certainly the most difficult puzzle of the weekend for us punters.

When approaching a race like this it’s not uncommon to come out of it with a shortlist of at least ten runners unless we can find a way to narrow down the field. Often in races like this the draw is the easiest way to rule chunks of the field out . In 2016 it looked as though high draws would be favoured and by backing my favoured two high drawn runners I was able to (huge aftertime incoming!) back the 328/1 winning exacta. I’ll be examining more than just the draw here though.


The 9f distance over which the Cambridgeshire is run isn’t a common one and most years we have the Silver Cambridgeshire the day before to give us some draw hints. There is no such race this year though and two days of largely small field races this week haven’t told us much about a potential current draw bias, although the centre of track seems to be where a lot of the action has taken place.

Looking at the Draw Analyser in Geegeez Gold for this 9f trip at Newmarket, we have data for twenty-two races run on ground ranging from soft to good to firm in field sizes of 16+ since 2009:

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Remarkably there has been little to no long term draw bias over this course and distance. The win figures are almost exactly the same across the board, the place figures are almost identical and the PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) data is exactly the same for low, middle and high draws.

More recently higher draws have seemed advantaged though. Looking at the eight qualifying races since 2016 gives quite a different outlook:

It looks as though the higher the better as far as recent draws are concerned with high draws having twice as strong a place ratio compared to low draws and all other metrics improving the higher you are drawn.

It has been profitable to blindly back several stalls each way since 2016 and six of the top seven most profitable stalls have been 19 or higher.

One thing to note about straight course draw advantages is they can often change depending on the ground. It looks as though this race will be run on something close to good to soft ground. In 2017 this race was run on good to soft ground and whilst the 1st and 5th home stuck to the near side rail, six of the first eight home actually raced in the far side group. That year’s Silver Cambridgeshire, run on the same good to soft ground, saw 16 runners start on the far side and finish on the stands’ side with the winner once again getting the near side rail on the run in.

In summary it’s been advantageous in recent years to be drawn higher in this race, especially if able to race predominantly against the near side rail. Lower draws however are certainly able to place at the very least and a middle draw is fine, especially on good to soft ground.


Newmarket is often a course that favours those who are near the pace but big fields and a strong early gallop  at any course can often swing things in favour of those who are held up, especially over slightly longer distances.

The Geegeez Gold Pace Analyser shows us that in this race it can be an advantage to lead in this race, leaders have the highest win percentage and place percentage and have produced a win P&L 15.0. So the best value will likely be found with front runners. In terms of volume, most wins and places are held up in mid division or in the rear.

It’s potentially worth noting, despite very limited data, that in two recent course and distance races on good to soft ground no horse that was held up in the rear even reached the frame.

In this year’s renewal there are plenty of potential front runners and the pace seems fairly even across the track so on that score it should be a pretty fair contest.

The Distance

When recently analysing a 6.5f race at Doncaster  a trend emerged that recent winners tended to be 6f horses, with 7f specialists almost always finding it too sharp a test.

This race is contested by a mixture of milers and ten furlong performers - is there a bias towards speed or stamina?

Seven of the last ten winners of this race raced at a mile before taking this contest and five subsequently won a race over further. This seems to suggest this is slightly more of a speed contest than stamina contest (and you certainly don’t need to be proven over further than a mile) but having likely stamina for 10f or further would be a bonus.

Slightly more testing ground could have a say in this matter though. As previously mentioned, the 2017 renewal was run on good to soft ground.

The winner had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The runner up had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.
The 3rd had his previous race at 8f but had a prior success over 10f.
The 4th had never previously run over further than 8f.
The 5th had his previous race at 10f and had a prior success at that distance.

So on this occasion proven stamina seemed a big positive but one thing certainly worth noting is that the first four home that year in both the Cambridgeshire and the Silver version had all raced at a mile at least once that season so this isn’t a race for ten furlong specialists.

How Well Handicapped Do You Have To Be To Win This?

This is an important question to ask as plenty of these runners look pretty well handicapped. However if you generally need to have at least a stone in hand of your rating that will rule many of these out.

Last year’s winner, Lord North, is now rated 25lbs higher than when winning this. His stable mate, Wissahickon was rated 10lbs higher than his winning mark in this less than 6 months later.

2017 victor, Dolphin Vista, was rated a stone higher than his rating when winning this within 5 subsequent starts on the flat. Spark Plug, winner in 2016, went up 8lbs for his victory and never rated higher.

The winner in 2015, Third Time Lucky, wasn’t the most consistent but did subsequently rate 11lbs higher whilst Bronze Angel, who won this twice off marks of 95 and 99, also won handicaps later in his career off 104 and 105 with his rating going as high as 111.

Meanwhile Educate, the 2013 Cambridgeshire winner, went up 8lbs to a mark of 112 for his victory and although he never rated higher, he ran to that mark of 112 several times in the next year.

This goes to show that in most cases the winner was 8lb to 10lbs well in. If you can’t see your pick rating that much higher than his current rating then he’s probably running for place money at best.

And on the subject of the official ratings, it can also pay to see what sort of rating does well in this race. You need to be well enough handicapped to win of course but you also need to be classy enough. This year there is 26lbs between the top weight and the bottom weight so a nice spread of ratings.

In the last 10 years the winners have been rated between 107 and 87 so that’s not going to rule many out this year for win purposes (just the top 3 rated horses, but two of those are quite well fancied). In fact no horse rated higher than Wissahickon’s 107 has even placed in the past decade.

Eight of the last ten winners have been rated 95 or higher which would rule out the bottom thirteen horses as likely winners. Just thirteen of the last forty placed horses were rated lower than 95 too. Eighteen placed runners have been rated between 95 and 100 inclusive and only eight runners this year represent that band. Meanwhile only eight placed horses were rated 101 or higher and seven horses are rated above 100 this year. Despite that relatively poor record for those higher up in the weights, in eight of the last ten years at least one horse rated 101 or higher has made the first four.

Half of the last ten winners have been rated between just 95 and 99 and only six runners (less than a quarter of the runners) this year fit into those ratings.

Cambridgeshire Odds

I’m not a fan of stats such as “only one winning favourite in the past ten years” as a runner doesn’t have less of a chance to win just because they’ve been backed from second favouritism into favouritism, and horses certainly don't know their odds.

However there is some mileage in looking at bands of prices that tend to do well as it shows if the results tend to be reflected in the previous form book or not.

The fact that eight of the last ten winners were priced up at 14/1 or lower goes to show that there aren’t many great shocks in this race. Now a runner currently priced up at 25/1 could end up winning at 14/1 tomorrow so not looking at anything above 14s would be counter-productive but it’s definitely something to consider with more than half the field likely to start at a bigger price.

The 2020 Cambridgeshire Field

So for place purposes it’s difficult to rule runners out based on draw, running style, stamina or official rating. However those who have raced at a mile at least once this season and those who are rated 100 or lower should largely be favoured, as should those drawn higher rather than lower.

For win purposes, we are likely looking for a runner:

Likely to have at least 8lbs in hand of official rating
Has run at a mile this season
Preferably races in mid division
Preferably drawn middle to high
Starting price of 14/1 or less

And those rated between 95 and 99 should certainly be very much considered.

So let’s look at the main contenders:


He's won both starts this year (at a mile) and seemed to have improved for his seasonal reappearance last time out. He’s been consistently strong at the finish over a mile, will handle the ground fine and is 3lbs well in under his penalty. Looks the proverbial ‘group horse in a handicap’ and appears to have a nice draw in 23.

If you were picking holes in his form you could say he hasn’t beaten anything this year (nine beaten runners in his last two races haven’t placed between them since) but it’s not his fault he hasn’t raced against better horses and his tactical versatility could be an asset in this.


Won the John Smith’s Cup in good style on his seasonal debut and unraced since (withdrawn twice because of soft ground). The ground is unlikely to be completely ideal here and he doesn’t look likely to be well served by the drop in trip either (tried several times over further than 10f last season). Stall 6 probably a slight negative too and likely to be given plenty to do. The form of his win this season does look strong though.


Likely to be the shortest priced runner from the classic generation, who have won three of the last five renewals of this. Another of those ‘group horses in a handicap’ having won four on the trot including a mile novice win. It’s difficult to gauge the strength of his form but he did give 7lbs and a length beating to Spirit Dancer a few starts back and that horse has gone close in a handicap off 83 since so you can’t really argue he’s badly handicapped here off 94. Impossible to rule out completely.


He’s looked primed to win a decent handicap this season but things haven’t quite worked out for him. This drop in trip in a big field should suit but he hasn’t raced at a mile this season and the ground has probably gone ever so slightly against him. The draw in stall 11 perhaps isn’t brilliant too so he might have to wait a bit longer for his first win in over a year.

Bell Rock

He appears to have been saved for this since finishing 3rd in a good handicap at Glorious Goodwood. That was his first run over 10f and he appeared to stay fine but he also has good form over a mile this season, notably when 6th in the Royal Hunt Cup from a poor draw. This 9f trip might be absolutely ideal for him but he’s been well enough beaten twice from this mark and doesn’t appeal as one who necessarily has 8lbs or more in hand despite relatively low mileage still.


He's been a revelation this season since gelded, winning four of his six starts and not finishing out of the first 2. He won a very strong handicap two starts ago off 104 but had his limitations slightly exposed last time out at listed level and now finds himself racing off 109. He would have been beaten in his last couple of handicap wins in another stride or two so the step up in distance is a slight concern, as is stall 2.

Sir Busker

A real credit to connections and a horse I have a soft spot for having followed him since he was rated 77 last year. No one would have thought this horse would be a leading contender in the Cambridgeshire off 111 but that’s a testament to how much he has improved this season. He’s still capable of rating higher than 111, especially with cut in the ground, and he’ll adore this big field. However his last to first tactics won’t be easy to pull off here and stall 3 isn’t ideal so he’s reluctantly passed over. I’d take him in a match bet against Montatham though!

Certain Lad

This horse seems to keep on improving and he was a slightly surprise winner of a Group 3 last time out. This is a monumental ask off a mark of 112 though and he’s another with a draw lower than ideal in 8.

Fifth Position

This horse still looks well handicapped on several pieces of form this season, including his mile run at Newcastle in June and his John Smith’s Cup effort in July. He’ll enjoy the little bit of dig in the ground but he’s looked like he needs to go up in trip rather than back in trip this season. He may well run creditably and can still rate a fair bit higher than 104 but perhaps something like the November Handicap will be more his cup of tea.

Al Rufaa

Gosden and Dettori have won this for the past two years but this looks like a bit of an afterthought for Al Rufaa who has been exclusively campaigned at 7f. It’s difficult to see him staying and he was below par on softer ground last time out so a win in this would be a slight shock.


A really interesting contender and one who looks overpriced. Well drawn in 27 and representing the 3yos who do well in this, he’s open to improvement after just eight starts and he brings big field handicap form into this. He won with a bit in hand last time out over 1.5f further on soft ground but was competitive earlier in the season over a mile when 3rd to Strait Of Hormuz.  That winner is now 13lbs higher, the runner up is 18lbs higher and the 4th is 17lbs higher. Lucander is only 9lbs higher than his 3rd over a mile and 4lbs higher than his recent win.

He’s likely to be held up in midfield which is fine and the only negative seems to be an inexplicably poor run at Newmarket’s July course this summer. His best form, and most his runs, have come on flatter tracks but that’s just a niggling worry more than anything.

One at a Bigger Price

Most of those at the bigger prices need to prove themselves in conditions or bounce back from poorer runs. One runner who seems to have been a little underestimated is John Berry’s Kryptos.

Before missing almost 3 years of racing he was beating the likes of Mountain Angel off almost level weights by 5 lengths. Mountain Angel went on to rate 113 yet Kryptos is still rated just 89. Since his return from injury his form has been a bit in and out, and certainly not to his pre-injury best, but there are signs he’s ready to strike. The most notable of those signs was two runs ago when his stamina was stretched at 10.5f, admittedly at Chester which isn’t the most stamina sapping of tracks. He was 3rd and the winner has since gone within a short head of winning again, the runner up has won a big handicap, the 4th has won since and the 5th has been an unlucky loser. He’s drawn in stall 4 which is probably a negative and this is probably too hot company but don’t be surprised to see him outrun his odds of 50/1 here and pop up at a big price before the season is out. One for the tracker at least.


It would be no surprise if any of those near the head of the market were to triumph here, especially Tempus who appears to have untapped potential going up in trip (lots of stamina on the dam’s side). However he’s the favourite in a 29 runner race and still hasn’t seemingly beaten much in terms of well handicapped runners.

So at more than twice the price it is Lucander who appeals most. Not only does he bring a nice profile into the race and the scalps of some well handicapped rivals, he also seems to fit the bill of many previous winners perfectly. He’s almost certainly still got at least 8lbs improvement in him, he’s run well at a mile this season, he’s likely to race in mid division, he's drawn middle to high, he’s probably going to go off around 14/1 or shorter (currently priced up at 18/1 and 16/1 with most bookies) and he’s currently rated 98 which is just about the perfect sweet spot as far as ratings are concerned. Assuming he's fine at the track he should run very well.

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10 replies
  1. Tony
    Tony says:

    Another excellent bit of analysis, Sam – I’ve just managed to get a bit of 20s with Paddy Power paying 7 places. I see Sky are paying 8 places but as usual their odds are a bit cramped. The other one I fancy at a massive price is Afaak. He came 2nd in this in 2017 and just loves these big fields – virtually all his best runs have come in big fields. He’s got quite a bit to find with Tempus on his last two starts, and probably won’t beat him again, and he is possibly getting a bit long in the tooth, but these conditions suit him ideally, he is drawn on the right side, and with 8 places on offer, and odds of around 33-1, he may well run into a place and pay handsomely. Tony

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      Thanks Tony, I did look at Afaak and I even backed him last time. He’s very in and out at the best of times but I thought from his last 2 runs it looked a bit like he was falling out with the game a bit. I’m sure he’ll pop up in a decent race when he regains the fire in his belly again – maybe tomorrow!

  2. acranea
    acranea says:

    I read all the way down & then found the tips were the two I’ve already backed 😀

    Can I have my ten minutes back please? 🙂

    If anyone fancies a flyer with spare change from down the back of the sofa I’ve had a go on Majestic Dawn win only.

    It’s either a win or finish 25th more than likely, hence the loose change approach. But at currently 54.0 on BF it’s worth the try.

    I’ve gone for BSP though hoping for more. Because, you know, Greed is good !

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      Great minds

      I followed Majestic Dawn and he ran a great race in this last year but he definitely needs to bounce back to form. He’s either been very difficult to train this season or completely laid out for this!

      • acranea
        acranea says:

        If only!

        But I did almost as well. I had it at BSP but then panicked a little when he came in almost 20 points last night. So I went in again & took 36. Didn’t want to wake up & find he’d come in to 16 or whatever.
        Turns out he’d been tipped up by a very good tipster. Probably had something to do with it.
        So in the end I got the 36 plus 46 BSP in the end as he drifted back.

        Shame the pubs are shutting early !! 😀

  3. michaelcft
    michaelcft says:

    Another immense piece of analysis and I’ve backed Lucander at 20s so many thanks Sam for your incredible hard work. One other I’ve had a small bit on at a massive price is Data Protection, winner of the Silver Cambridgeshire last year. A 3 times course winner who is well drawn and 50-1 at the mo.

    • samdarby
      samdarby says:

      A bit of rain today wouldn’t go amiss.

      Data Protection was given a strange ride last time (blasted off way too fast). He could end up giving the high draws a lovely tow into the race if he does that again.

  4. fingers
    fingers says:

    Have been with Geegeez Gold for 5 or 6 years and use all the tools available as well as the old gut feeling and the latter is telling me that Fifth Position will be suited to this straight mile as he got a bit unbalanced at York and should turn around the form with Lucander at least as better off at weights…he will be finishing better than most over the 9f so a sporting EW is required.

  5. alpha2
    alpha2 says:

    I backed three, King Carney, Tempus and Data Protection, all had something in common with Majestic Dawn. The bit I missed was last years run.

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