Wednesday's free 'feature of the day' is the excellent Trainer Statistics report, whilst the free 'races of the day' are scheduled to be...
- 1.55 Perth
- 4.10 Perth
- 4.35 Lingfield
- 4.50 Dundalk
- 5.05 Catterick
- 7.30 Taunton
And we're heading to North Yorkshire for a bit of Déjà vu in the 5.05 Catterick, a 10-runner, Class 6 Apprentice handicap over 5f on good to firm (good in places) ground. I covered a similar race two weeks ago (see here), where I was (wrongly) fairly dismissive of Harrogate's chances (he finished 2nd of 8) and I also looked at trainer Eric Alston's five year handicap record here at Catterick.
Well, roll forwards two weeks and here we are again, Harrogate now looks like being a fairly warm favourite and Eric Alston (like myself) has another crack at landing a Catterick winner. I won't bore you by digging into the Alston stats as I did a fortnight ago, as they're only the losing bet from that day different and we'll just crack on and see if Harrogate is a justified fav here, starting with the card itself...
This was an 11-runner contest originally, but Moveonup doesn't run after all, but we do still have ten to consider...
Requiem's Dream won back to back 5f contests the day after each other in mid July 2019, the latter of which was here over course and distance, but hasn't hit those heights since. She has only raced twice in almost 15 months and looked rusty at Musselburgh earlier this month after the best part of 10 months off. Well down in weight from her handicap debut, but still off the top mark here and others make more appeal.
Gorgeous Gobolina has two wins and a place from her last seven outings, but hasn't raced on turf for six months since being beaten by just over a length and a half in a Class 4 contest off a mark of 61. This is two grades further down and she's 2lbs lighter here and would have a great chance, but for possibly needing the run.
Harrogate ran far better than I expected last time out and arguably better than he has done for some time, but it has to be said that he was still beaten by four lengths and goes off the same mark here, so he'll need to improve to justify the short price, especially as he's on a 16-race losing streak.
Boudica Bay is the Eric Alston-trained mare here and she's interesting in this contest, because of her career record of 5 from 30, she's actually 5 from 7 in Class 6 Flat handicaps over 5f on ground with the word good in the official description! She had a wind op during a five and a half month layoff over the winter and looked like she needed the run last time out when beaten on unsuitable tapeta, but this former C&D winner can do better here.
Tiltilys Rock is another former C&D winner, having scored here in early July of 2020 and he followed that up 15 days later by narrowly winning a 15-runner handicap at Beverley. A 5lb rise and the step up to 6f did him no favours in three outings after that, before reverting to 5f in a 10 length defeat at Nottingham six months ago. He hasn't been seen since and although now only a pound higher than his last win, will probably need the run here and some improvement.
Red Stripes has certainly been around the block a few times and is set to make his 170th appearance here. His last 24 runs have all been on the All-Weather and now returns to turf action for the first time since September 2020. His Flat record of 1 from 43 is pretty discouraging, but he does have a 30% place strike rate and had three very near misses in a row last July going down by half a length at Class 5 twice and then by a neck at Class 4. Those runs came off marks of 64, 64 and 65, yet here he is in a Class 6 off 47. He could well cause a bit of a surprise here.
Newgate Angel has won just one of 24 career starts and that was five races and over eight months ago at Beverley. She rounded that season off with defeats of 8.5L, 9.5L and 10L before taking a 19 week break. She showed little promise on her reappearance last month when 9th of 10, beaten by 10 lengths and she's probably just not good enough here.
De Latour has had 20 goes at getting off the mark and has rarely looked like doing so for three different trainers. He was beaten by almost seven lengths in a non-handicap contest last time out and looks destined to struggle here or in Tuesday night's 7.30 Southwell where he is also entered. I don't see him going well in either if I'm brutally honest.
Bluella is another who has been given lots of opportunities but hasn't really taken them as seen in her 1 from 32 record including 0/9 on turf. She has already raced six times this year and was beaten by almost 12 lengths over 5f in a minor Class 6 contest last time out. That was her last run for Mick Appleby and now debuts for her fourth handler in three years.
Corton Lass makes up the list of runners and riders and I wouldn't be surprised if she's last on the result list either. Timeform describe her as "ungenuine" and it's easy to see why, after failing to win any of her 31 starts to date, making the frame just three times. She's likely to need a run after over six months off track and she was beaten by almost 9 lengths and 13.5 lengths in her last two outings and she's off the same mark as the first of those defeats.
After looking at each of the runners, it's a fair bit clearer why Harrogate is likely to be a fairly warm favourite, but I think that says more about the lack of quality in the race than it does about him, because I don't think he's very good either, he's just possibly one of the least poor runners in this poor race. In fact, between them, these ten horses have raced 385 times, making the frame just 107 times (27.8%) including a mere 30 wins (7.8% SR). It's easy to argue that those numbers are skewed by Red Stripes' 169 previous runs (43.9% of all the field's runs), but he has made the frame 61 times (36.1%) winning 14 (8.3%) of them, so if anything his presence boosts the numbers!
It might be prudent to look at both the win & place stats for Instant Expert, as some of these have few/no wins in Flat handicaps and hopefully the two graphics will point us in the right direction...
It's pretty clear from the win graphic that the Alston runner, Boudica Bay, has shown the best form under today's conditions and is 6lbs lighter than his last win and whilst Tiltilys Rock's win numbers have some green, the figures are the same for places implying a win or bust string of results. Red Stripes' consistency is highlighted in the place figures and Harrogate shows up well there. Essentially, the poor Corton Lass aside, Red Stripes, Harrogate and Boudica Bay have been the busiest but also the most consistent at making the frame with Boudica Bay easily the most successful in terms of actual wins.
By stalls sector...
Obviously if we try to split 10 stalls into three groups, we're going to get more runners in one sector, but it's the percentages and the A/E and IV etc figures that matter most here and the basic gist here is that middle drawn runners would appear to struggle most with low draw being the best.
By actual stalls numbers...
Stall 1 would appear to have that legendary/fabled "golden corridor" TV presenters often look for and apart from that fairly anomalous looking result, the other stalls seem to share the winners around. In essence, stall 1 is great, but if you're in one of the other nine you've still as much chance as most of your rivals.
Here, however, there is a distinct bias and it's quite simple : the further forward you can race the better your chances, so natural leaders fare really well here and those who like to leave it late often get the fractions wrong. One might suggest that in an Apprentices' race, such hold-up tactics would be even more perilous than usual.
Pace & Draw...
Here's a really simple, but effective way of showing how the four running styles interact with the three draw sectors and if you're a leader drawn high, you're in a great position, as opposed to hold-up horses with a low/mid draw, who just don't seem to win here.
And our pace/draw projection...
We now know our draw and how the draw affects results, we can now look back on our runners' last four races to get an average of their race positions and we can overlay their draw and pace onto that heatmap above and that gives us in stall order...
And it is here that Harrogate finally gives us an inkling of why he's likely to go off fairly short. Not only does he have what looks like a perfect draw/pace make-up, he's also the only real pace in the entire race, although Red Stripes and Newgate Angel aren't too disadvantaged there either.
I suppose this piece again revolves around Harrogate and the Eric Alston angle from the Trainer Statistics report via his runner Boudica Bay. If I'm totally honest, I don't really lie any of the ten runners on offer here, but I'd expect both of Boudica Bay and Harrogate to make the frame here and I'll make up my three against the field with the old warrior Red Stripes.
Harrogate should be winning this from that draw, but he's not particularly well treated at the weights, running off the same mark as a four length defeat last time out. Boudica Bay has better stats, receives weight from the fav and has ideal race conditions here, whilst Red Stripes is carrying so little weight that he has every chance of turning the clock back.
So, here's where I'm at. I fancy these three to make the frame, I can't back Harrogate at Hills' 15/8 and certainly not at Bet365's 11/8 and I'm not even convinced he'll win. Boudica Bay and Red Stripes will run him close and if things fall just right, then that 10/1 from Hills about Red Stripe could be huge. I'd rather back the old boy E/W than back the fav here.