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Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Bias Plus The Effect Of The Ground On Front Runners At York

Some very interesting betting races at both York and Newmarket this weekend and the most interesting of all has to be the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket. As usual there are 34 runners plus 2 reserves entered and some course biases would be extremely handy in narrowing down this field, so let’s take a look at what might prevail here.

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

The general consensus is you want to be drawn low in this, but how strong is the bias over 2m2f at Newmarket?

The Cesarewitch Trial doesn’t tend to attract big fields so we are fairly limited with our data here as most of it is only provided by the renewal of this race each year. The good news is that with some massive field sizes a huge amount of runners have contributed to the PRB data here and that is going to be by far our most reliable gauge of a potential draw bias at Newmarket.

The PRB data seems to favour low and middle over high with a low draw PRB of 0.54, a middle draw PRB of 0.53 and a much poorer PRB for the highest third of the draw of just 0.44.

The win data isn’t totally reliable given a relatively small sample of races since 2009 but it’s worth noting that only one winner since that data has come from a stall higher than 23 and that was when Frankie Dettori made all on Never Can Tell in 2011. His stall number was 36 but with non runners and reserves not making the cut he effectively came out of stall 33. It’s worth noting that not only was he able to get a good early position from his ‘bad’ draw, Dettori also explored a completely different part of the straight than the rest of the field which probably gave him a big advantage that day - negating the disadvantage of his draw.

That win certainly looks the exception to the rule and it seems that for win purposes we probably want to look at the bottom two thirds of the draw.

For a more detailed look at the draw we should check out the individual stall data.

Both the table and the graph are sorted by PRB3 (PRB3 is a rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten) to give us the best indication of the best and worst places to be drawn in the Cesarewitch.

First of all though, we’ve established that winning is very difficult from the top third of the draw but what about placing? Higher drawn runners do place, and it’s easy to then suggest the draw bias can’t be very strong because of it, but that isn’t wise. Of the top eleven place percentages for individual stalls, nine of those come from stalls 11 or lower. The only other stalls to break into that top eleven are stalls 19 and 27.

Stall 33’s sole place came when Dettori found the quickest ground and if you were willing to ignore that, which admittedly is slightly selective use of the data, it could be said that the highest seven stalls are all in the bottom fourteen stalls as far as place percentages are concerned.

A total of seventeen stalls have placed more than once and fourteen of those were stall 16 or below. The other three stalls to have two places or more are 19, 22 and 27.

Based on the win and place data, I’d suggest that the winner is very likely to come from stall 23 or lower and the placed horses are very likely to be dominated by stalls 27 and lower. That potentially rules out eleven runners for win purposes and seven runners for place purposes.

As mentioned previously, the most reliable data in this sample is the PRB data as every runner is contributing to that.

Again, this is selective use of the stats as Stall 33 has won the race before, but we’ve established that he probably didn’t really win completely on merit so I’m willing to largely overlook that anomaly. If you did ignore that win the top twenty-two individual stall PRB figures would belong to the lowest 28 stalls and any stall higher than that would have a PRB of 0.46 at best. The top six PRB figures include five stalls that are 10 or lower.

For some reason there is a slight dip in performance as far as PRB3 is concerned from around stall 9 to stall 18. There is no obvious reason why that might be the case and perhaps that line will be smoothed further in future years. It certainly seems as though being drawn 11 or lower is absolutely ideal according to many of the individual stall metrics.

All of the above data is based on the actual stall the runners emerged from, which is impacted by non runners, rather than the racecard stall numbers. It’s worth noting that the reserves this year are drawn in stalls 23 and 3. Assuming neither gets a run stalls 4 to 22 will effectively break from one stall lower than their racecard draw and stalls 24 and above will effectively come out of two stalls lower than their racecard draw. So if you were using stall 23 as the cut off for where you might be able to win from, stall 25 would actually qualify as that will effectively be stall 23.

One final point to note on the Cesarewitch draw advantage is that as of 2020, you have to go all the way back to Sergeant Cecil’s victory from stall 9 in 2005 to find a renewal of this race where a horse drawn 7 or lower didn’t finish in the first four. So it might not be a bad strategy to simply back your favoured horse drawn 7 or lower to place - there are plenty of runners at very big prices amongst those draws this year.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

So we certainly seem to have a Cesarewitch draw bias, what about a Cesarewitch pace bias at Newmarket?

The win percentages suggest the closer you are to the early pace the better but sixteen races is too small a sample to be reading too much into the win data when we can also look at the place data.

The place percentages suggest there really is much in it at all. The top place percentage of 15.91% belongs to prominent whilst front runners have a slightly inferior place percentage of 15.71%.

The best two place percentages do belong to the most aggressive run styles but with mid division place percentage coming in at 12.5% and held up providing a place percentage of 14.21% there really isn’t much between the data.

If there aren’t many front runners in the field I’d probably slightly favour something that is likely to be ridden in the front half of the field but granted an even pace or better I’d have no hesitation in going for something a bit more patiently ridden if they have the right sort of draw and a strong level of form.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Draw and pace are both extremely important factors in most races. In combination they can be hugely influential and the draw and pace combination heat map on the Draw Analyser helps give extra insight into potential course biases.

Despite Newmarket often being a front runner’s track, the data points to a front running ride from either low or middle to be a disadvantage in this race with extremely poor PRB figures for each of those combinations. The only reason front running from a high draw comes out okay is the victory of Never Can Tell in 2011 and that probably shouldn’t be taken at face value. More runners have led early from low, than middle and high combined, so it’s clear that it’s much easier to get the lead from a low stall as those higher drawn runners are likely to track across.

Racing prominently is rarely a bad thing at Newmarket and that’s certainly the case if a runner is drawn low or middle in this with impressive PRBs of 0.58 and 0.64 respectively. Things get drastically worse for this run style from high draws though with a PRB of just 0.31. Nineteen runners have raced prominently from a high draw since 2009 and only one of those even managed to place.

Racing in mid division is possibly just about the best place to be if drawn low but things get steadily worse the higher you are drawn for this run style. The place percentages for middle and high for mid division are extremely poor (less than 4% compared to 24.25% for mid division for low).

The draw seems to make the least amount of difference for those held up with not a massive amount between the draws for that run style. On balance, if you are backing a high drawn runner then it is probably best that the horse is dropped out from the start. If you are a hold up performer then there isn’t much between a low and middle draw as far as PRB is concerned, although place percentage data very slightly favours middle.

This heat map is very informative and my reading of the data is that prominent runners from low or middle draws should be marked up, as should those racing in mid division from low draws, whilst I wouldn’t be completely put off hold ups from low or middle.

Cesarewitch 2021 Pace Map

This is the pace map for the 2021 Cesarewitch Handicap, based on the last two runs of each participant.

I have added two blue boxes which may well be the most advantageous draw and pace combinations. There is of course no guarantee that those runners will reproduce those run styles, or that runners outside of the boxes won’t be ridden differently this time around.

Overall there is a fair amount of pace in this contest, particularly drawn very low although Aleatoric is second reserve and unlikely to run. There is also pace middle and high and those runners are going to have to use up plenty of early energy if they are to compete with Putting Green and Land Of Winter for the early lead.

Only a couple of the low drawn runners appear likely to be dropped out early, potentially forfeiting some of their draw advantage, and one of those includes the well fancied Buzz.

Given there is a decent amount of early pace in this on paper I wouldn’t rule out the more patiently ridden runners from low and middle draws although they might be at a slight disadvantage against some other draw and pace combinations (mainly the two marked in the blue boxes on the pace map).

Cesarewitch 2021 Preview

It's not impossible to build a case for many of these but I had four runners, all relatively well found in the betting, in mind for this from an early stage.

I’m never quite sure what to do with the Willie Mullins runners in these races. He’s won this for the past three years and runs five this year. In general they are difficult to weigh up from a form perspective but you know they should usually be respected because of the powerful yard they represent.

MC Muldoon is one of the easier ones to work out because he ran in the Ascot Stakes in June. He was runner up in that contest, and an unlucky runner up at that. I was really impressed with how he made up ground that day, going from around five or six lengths off the pace turning for home to about two lengths off the pace by the time they reached the 2f marker. This long straight will allow him to make up the ground in his own time and his draw in stall 15 is more than fine. He’s up 4lbs and the form of that Ascot Stakes race could certainly have worked out better so there are negatives but he’s clearly been campaigned with this in mind all season and has to be the one to beat.

Elysian Flame was one place behind him that day on ground that would have been plenty fast enough. He then did best of those held up at Glorious Goodwood over a similar trip. He stays all day and would have preferred more rain but what rain they’ve had will suit, as should the long straight. He’s entitled to push MC Muldoon close from a similar draw, with a similar run style, but you get the impression that MC Muldoon is the classier rival.

The horse that finished ahead of Elysian Flame at Goodwood was Calling The Wind, who has been extremely progressive over staying trips this season. He was runner up in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in June but it’s not always best to take that form at face value. He came out of that and won at Goodwood though, cruising through that contest and only needing to be shaken up in the final furlong to win comfortably. He was put up 6lbs for that but probably put in his most remarkable effort to date last time out over just 12f. Despite that distance looking far too short for him based on this season’s exploits he once again cruised through the race, showing more speed than any other rival, only to go down by a head to a well handicapped winner. His performance needs to be watched to be appreciated and he has looked well ahead of his mark on his last few runs. The problem here is stall 27, which admittedly will effectively be stall 25 assuming the two reserves don’t make the cut. That stall would make him slightly higher still than the preferred cut off for win purposes but just about within the cut off for placing.

If Calling The Wind had been granted a much lower draw I don’t see how this horse would have finished out of the places and would have backed accordingly. As it is he still has a fair chance of placing at least but the market hasn’t reacted enough to his draw (meaning he should have drifted more) so I’ll have just a small each way bet on him instead.

Platform Nineteen was four places behind Calling The Wind at Goodwood and followed that up with a strong 3rd at York over two miles.

What is interesting about that form is the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th have all won since making Platform Nineteen look well handicapped still off a 1lb higher mark. Unfortunately he has fared just as badly as Calling The Wind when it comes to the draw having been handed stall 28. From very similar draws I’d expect Calling The Wind to finish maybe a couple of lengths ahead of Platform Nineteen but Calling The Wind is only around 8/1 at the time of writing whereas Platform Nineteen is around the 25/1 mark. I’d much rather back Platform Nineteen to place at around 6/1 than Calling The Wind to place at around 2/1!

I think this quartet will all run well in this race and begrudgingly admit that MC Muldoon is the most likely winner but he offers no value, nor does Calling The Wind who the draw has hindered. I’m reluctant to get too involved in PLATFORM NINETEEN given the draw but he has to be considered the value play in this for all his draw has probably cost him a winning chance, making a place only bet the most appealing wager – you’d still get paid at similar odds as you would on MC Muldoon winning.

Coral Sprint Trophy Preview

From eighteen furlongs to six. Over at York, at 3.15pm, another extremely tough handicap will be run - the Coral Sprint Trophy.

The draw advantage at York probably isn’t what it used to be, they largely come up the middle and that seems to be just about the best place to be, making it a pretty level playing field as far as stalls are concerned.

Pace still has a huge bearing on York sprints though. It’s often a huge advantage to be on the speed over both 5f and 6f but is that still the case on testing ground?

The above shows the pace bias in big field York sprints on good or good to firm ground.

Meanwhile this is the pace data for sprints on good to soft or soft ground.

Front runners actually do marginally better in softer conditions for both win and place percentages. With front runners doing even better on testing ground we see a slightly poorer performance from those that are held up.

In this year’s race Gulliver will be going for a hat trick having won this in both 2019 and 2020. Despite being held up more often than not, which isn’t a great run style for this venue, all four of his turf wins have come at York. For 99% of the race in 2019 he looked like an also ran having been first off the bridle but he kept responding and got up late. A year later things were far more straight forward. Despite being settled at the back of the field he made up ground more comfortably this time, winning by over 2 lengths against a runner up that would be rated 10lbs higher within 6 months.

He also ran in a 6f handicap this season, on good to soft ground, but it appears the ground wasn’t quite soft enough as he was never going quick enough and finished a never nearer 6th. He did second best of the hold up performers that day and it’s worth noting that the best of those hold up performers was Mr Lupton who won the race. Mr Lupton is 3lbs better off with Gulliver in this having beaten him by 4.75 lengths so even though Gulliver looks likely to run well again off the same mark he carried to victory last year, it’s difficult to argue he is any sort of value against Mr Lupton who is the complete outsider of the field whereas Gulliver is the favourite. Like Guilliver, Mr Lupton also has four wins on the Knavesmire so is just as much of a course specialist.

You do have to forgive Mr Lupton four poor runs on the bounce, which is why he is such a big price, whereas Gulliver looks much more likely to run his race.

I do like Gulliver’s chances but the ground isn’t going to get any softer there now and that might count against him.

There are some interesting Irish runners in this race. Laugh A Minute was rated as high as 109 when with Roger Varian and placed twice here (good previous York form is always a huge bonus in any of these races). He comes here rated 92 having gone close last time despite never really getting a clear run. His better form has generally come on better ground though and he was well beaten in this last year.

Verhoyen could be the most interesting Irish raiders though. Three of his four wins have come over 6f but he’s been running over 5f recently. Last time out he got within half a length of the now 100 rated Strong Johnson, off level weights, meaning he’s feasibly handicapped here off 92 with the step back up in trip looking likely to suit.

Magical Spirit looks overpriced at 16/1 with most bookies. He ran a solid 4th in the Ayr Silver Cup last time out despite the ground not being soft enough and he was also 4th in this last year off a 5lb higher mark.

Magical Spirit ran very well over a slightly inadequate 5f on his penultimate start at Ascot’s Shergar Cup meeting but what is interesting about that race is he was 2nd in the near side group and the other runners who came near side have let that form down repeatedly since.

However the race that took place on the far side is far more interesting. The winner of the entire race, and therefore first home on the far side, was Tis Marvellous who has won two listed races since and placed in a Group 3 since. The runner up on the far side, beaten 2 lengths, was King Of Stars who has won two handicaps subsequently. Then third home on the far side, beaten a length by King Of Stars, was Snazzy Jazzy who is now a massive 7lbs lower and runs here. On that form alone he is 8lbs better off with Magical Spirit.

That was one of three strong efforts Snazzy Jazzy put in during the summer over 5f and the other two came here at York. The first of those was a 4th in a listed contest won by subsequent Nunthorpe winner Winter Power. The runner up has finished 2nd in a Group 3 since and the 3rd placed in a listed race next time out.

Snazzy Jazzy was also 7th in the above race, that I highlighted as hot form ahead of the Portland Handicap a few weeks ago. The 3rd and 5th have both won twice since and the 1st and 2nd have both finished as runner up since giving that form a really solid look. Snazzy Jazzy was only beaten 3 lengths in this race and is now racing off a 5lb lower mark.

His two subsequent runs haven’t been quite so good but he was held up in the centre of the course in the Ayr Gold Cup which was absolutely not the place to be from both a draw and pace perspective. He was then outclassed in a listed race last time out. His runs at 5f on good or good to soft ground in the summer read very well given all his best form previously had come on soft ground at 6f, the scenario he faces on Saturday.

He could easily bounce back to form back at York, pitched into more suitable company on a lenient handicap mark, and although his hold up style isn’t tailor made for this course, he’s already run well here against pace biases. There is also plenty of pace likely in this (four habitual front runners) which will boost both his, and Gulliver’s chances. SNAZZY JAZZY looks far more interesting than Gulliver though given the 33/1 on offer.

Good luck whatever you are backing!

Going For Gold In The Cesarewitch

The big handicap this weekend has to be the Cesarewitch. It’s going to be a real test this year on soft ground but who is going to come out on top in this cavalry charge?

Draw

The Cesarewitch draw is much talked about and the general consensus is a low draw is best but how strong a draw bias is there over this marathon trip?

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

It can be a common misconception that just because a high draw is a negative, that a low draw must be better than a middle draw. Looking at the above stats there have been almost twice as many wins from middle draws compared to low draws with the place figures neck and neck between the two. High draws though compare miserably with just a solitary win and on average high draws are producing less than one place per race which means all but the very well handicapped high drawn runners can possibly be ignored, even for a place.

The A/E and IV figures favour middle draws much more so than low draws but the PRB can barely be separated between low and middle draws. So in terms of chances of winning or placing there probably isn’t much between a low draw and a middle draw but it seems clear the bookies overreact to those drawn low and offer better value on those coming from the middle stalls.

Over the years this race has been run on a variety of going conditions, will softer ground amplify the draw bias or negate it?

Cesarewitch Soft Draw Bias

Looking at races on soft or good to soft, we have far less data so we should tread with caution slightly, but what we seem to be seeing here is a slightly stronger focus on low draws compared to middle. The PRB figures give us the most data and low draw PRB goes from 0.54 to 0.57 on softer ground, whilst middle drawn PRB drops from 0.53 to 0.52. High drawn PRB also decreases from 0.43 to 0.41. So the data is very similar and it’s possible the going doesn’t make any difference but if softer ground does affect the draw bias it makes a lower draw more important rather than less important.

In such a big field plenty of runners fall into the category of low, middle and high and it can be of benefit to find a cut off point for where a good draw becomes a bad draw.

Cesarewitch Stall Bias

Looking at the individual draw figures, sorted by PRB3, on all but fast ground, gives us some interesting figures. Stalls 1-10 fill ten of the best eleven results with only stall 19 crashing the party.

It’s worth noting that stall 27 has a 30% place strike rate but the only other stall that is 20 or higher to manage even a 15% place strike rate is stall 22 (20%). So given that twelve of the fourteen best place strike rates belong to horses drawn 19 or lower that seems a good cut off point for where a good draw starts to become a bad draw. Five of the best six place strike rates remarkably belong to horses drawn in bottom six stalls so away from fast ground a very low draw is clearly of benefit to each way punters.

Pace

Front runners have an advantage at most distances in horse racing but generally speaking the further you go, the less of an advantage it becomes.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

It’s a common theme in horse racing that those ridden nearer the pace will offer better value and out and out front runners have a good strike rate here with two winners from just eighteen runs. As horses are given more to do here over this trip they produce more places but from more runners. So just because more placed horses are held up than any other run style, that doesn’t mean they are advantaged. They certainly aren’t disadvantaged either though with only prominent racers having a better each way strike rate.

The going can affect pace bias so let’s have a quick look at the same data on ground that is good to soft or softer.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias On Softer Ground

We have less data here so win percentages seem less relevant but there is a decent amount of place data on offer and it looks as though front runners are only advantaged on faster ground - their record in softer conditions isn't good. The majority of placed horses are coming from nearer the back but there isn’t a massive difference between the place percentages whether you are prominent, mid division or held up. What is noteworthy though is the huge IV of those coming from mid division so that does look the ideal race position on this kind of ground.

In terms of this race, with so many runners the pace map is rather large.

Cesarewitch Pace Map

There is guaranteed pace in here from Mukha Magic and potentially another 5 or 6 who could easily try to force the pace or dispute it – this should be run at a good gallop and stamina is likely to be well tested. Those who are settled somewhere around mid division are likely to be seen to best effect.

Draw and Pace Combination

One of the best visuals on Geegeez Gold for me is the draw/pace heat maps. They give such a good snapshot of where you might want to be placed depending on your draw.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Showing data for PRB on course and distance races run on good or softer, this gives a strong indication that low drawn horses that don’t lead are well served. If you are drawn in the middle racing prominently can be advantageous and extremes of rides suit those that are drawn much wider.

Jumps Experience

You often hear that you need a jumps trainer/horse for this kind of test so let’s see if that’s actually the case.

The last two winners of this race were saddled by Willie Mullins so both had of course previously run over hurdles. In 2015 Grumeti won for Alan King and the previous year Big Easy was the winner for Phillip Hobbs. That’s four of the last six winners having previously jumped a hurdle.

In 2017 the 2nd and 3rd were hurdlers and in 2016 the 5th and 6th were jumpers so it does seem that the proven stamina of those that have national hunt experience comes in handy.

The Runners

Coltrane

Was impressive in the Melrose last time and has been saved for this since but there has only been one 3yo winner of this race this century and he’s as yet unproven over further than 14f. Add stall 34 to the mix and he is going to have to improve plenty for this step up in trip to figure. That’s possible but the draw makes it easy to put a line through him.

Great White Shark

She was a late plunge in this race last year (11/1 into 7/1) but seemed to run a bit flat, finishing 10th. She’s now 3lb lower this time and her latest flat effort, when a close 7th to Princess Zoe at Galway when better than the bare result, makes her a leading contender. Stall 20 is just about okay but she doesn’t always translate her Galway form elsewhere and needs to step up massively on last year’s effort. No surprise to see her go well but it’s not guaranteed and that’s not really reflected in the price.

Leoncavallo

Form figures of 211 since joining David Pipe – he’s clearly found the key to this one. He’s up 8lbs for an impressive win last time out on good to soft but that form has been let down a few times and not only does he have stall 29 to contend with, he’s only won once from seven attempts on soft ground and that was when winning by a nose at odds of 4/6. He’s proven over this far both as a flat horse and a jumps horse but is a little risky on this ground.

Not So Sleepy

Clearly laid out for this with just one run since March which was an easy victory over just 12f at Pontefract in a 4 runner handicap. He’s 2lbs well in under a penalty and goes very well in soft ground. He’s got experience over hurdles and was a good 4th in this last year under similar conditions. Stall 4 looks great and there is an awful lot to like about this horse. He’s likely to be somewhere between mid division and prominent which will be fine. The only nagging doubt is he’s 4lbs higher than when beaten over 6 lengths in this 12 months ago. That was arguably a deeper renewal though so no surprise if he at least places once again.

Just Hubert

He can be difficult to catch right (fairly well beaten on four of his six starts this term) but he’s well suited by a massive test of stamina, as was demonstrated when he won the Goodwood Stakes this summer over 2f further. Most of his best efforts have come on faster ground but many of his poorer runs on softer ground have been followed up with a poor run on a faster surface so it wasn’t necessarily the ground that held him back on those occasions. He won on good to soft as a juvenile and did run well at Chester on soft ground last year. A quick look at the Profiler tool for the sire’s offspring suggests soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and it will certainly help bring out his stamina. Stall 17 is fine.

Just Hubert Sire Ground Stats

Rock Eagle

Hasn’t taken much racing but the result of that is he’s still unexposed at the age of 5. He’s a winner here and shaped as though he might stay further when staying on well over 14f at Salisbury last time out but he’s never encountered ground softer than good and has stamina to prove so whilst he has potential he’s a very risky proposition.

Lightly Squeeze

**Didn’t get in**

First reserve at the time of writing and will only get a run if there is a non runner before 1pm on Friday. This comment will be left in even if he doesn’t make the cut  - it will make a nice ‘what if?’!

Lightly Squeeze seems to have an absolutely ideal profile here. He’s been progressive over hurdles since joining Harry Fry - his hurdle rating has risen from 108 to 137. His last run over hurdles was when falling at the last, in the lead, in the Betfair Hurdle. He’s had just the one flat run since then and that was a very interesting run indeed. He drifted from 3/1 to 5/1 before the off (suggesting this was a prep or the run would be needed) but he ran really well. He moved smoothly into contention and was disputing the lead a furlong out before tiring slightly into 3rd. The winner has won again since and the 4th has won both starts since so that was clearly decent form.

The 14f of that race was the furthest he has gone on the flat but his sire (Poet’s Voice) has a 100% place record with progeny over this trip on the flat and he’s also won over a furlong further over hurdles. All his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and to top it all off he’s drawn in stall 1.

He would have to run from 3lbs out of the handicap but he was due to go up 2lbs for his recent run anyway so is effectively only 1lb wrong.

What a shame it will be if he misses the cut by one place!

Mondain

He's officially the best in here with his 4lb penalty still leaving him 3lbs well in. He’s pretty much proven at the trip having won at 17.5f last time out at Ayr. In fact his record at 2m or further reads 1121 whereas his 14f record reads 3255589442 so stamina definitely appears his forte. It looks as though he’s been ridden with a little more restraint in recent starts (as opposed to front running) which is probably a good thing given front runners seem to have struggled in his race on softer ground and stall 19 is fine but there is a slight question mark over the ground, he seems to have run his best races on good or good to soft ground (beaten 5+ lengths in three starts on soft). He’s also been running in much weaker contests than this recently so there has to be a doubt about how well handicapped he is for this. He has a definite chance if okay on the ground though.

Best of the Rest

Couer De Lion would have been very interesting on this ground but he’s been drawn in stall 35 and doesn’t have too many secrets from the handicapper so that’s him ruled out. Dalton Highway is quite interesting on some of his form with Great White Shark and he’ll enjoy the ground but stall 27 makes his task even harder. Diocletian will like the ground and shapes as though he may get further but he’s run relatively poorly in all four starts over 2m or further so he can’t be backed with any confidence for all he’d be capable of running very well if he did stay.

True Destiny loves having his stamina tested and runs well in good staying handicaps but he’s difficult to win with and the ground has probably gone against him. Cleonte is well drawn and fairly handicapped but has been in poor form on his last three runs.

Perhaps most interesting of the rest is Gold Arch who could offer some value at a very big price. He’s not the easiest ride and can be awkward under pressure but he’s had a more consistent profile this season for William Knight, finishing in the first four in all five starts. On his first run at 2m he had to be hard ridden half a mile from home and he stayed on well into 2nd. It was a similar story next time out over the same trip at Ripon, a course that wouldn’t have suited his running style. On that occasion he ran on into a never nearer 4th. He then ran over 16.5f at Wolverhampton on his latest start and once again stayed on late behind two rivals who were more forwardly ridden. He made up a lot of ground again late that day to finish 3rd (True Destiny who is a shorter price here was just a short head in front) and although it could be argued that he’s better on all weather than turf (very possibly true) he’s yet to have his stamina fully tested on turf and may well enjoy the softer ground.

Verdict

Obviously this is a wide open race and it’s more a case of finding a few runners who have been underestimated by the bookies than looking for the most likely winner. Those at the head of the market look too skinny for a variety of reasons and there is definitely value to be found elsewhere.

With Lightly Squeeze not getting a run the shortlist is going to be:

Not So Sleepy
Just Hubert
Mondain
Gold Arch

Not So Sleepy is perhaps the most solid of the of the quartet having run well in this last year. He’s well drawn, stays the trip and comes here in form and fresh. It’s a concern that he’s 4lbs higher this time around but perhaps being a fresher horse this year will make the difference. He’s a solid each way at 12/1, especially with as many as 8 places on offer, but the suspicion has to be he’ll find a couple too good.

Just Hubert still looks fairly handicapped and whilst the ground is a slight concern he’ll absolutely adore this stamina test. There is a bit more risk involved compared to backing Not So Sleepy but he’s as big as 18/1 so he could be slightly more rewarding too.

Similar sentiments apply to Mondain. He’s technically well handicapped here and seems well suited to a real stamina test but he hasn’t really finished amongst well handicapped horses this season so could find this too competitive. There is also a small worry about the ground conditions suiting, for all he is proven on good to soft.

Now Gold Arch is riskier than the other three but at 50/1 (including with SkyBet who are offering 8 places) he looks the value play here. He can be a difficult ride, he needs reminders, riding along early and often carries his head high. However the further he goes, the stronger he gets and this long straight and extra distance could well be the making of him. He’s been a consistent horse this season in a visor so should be a decent each way bet despite not having yet registered a win on turf. It’s just a shame they don’t run the Cesarewitch at Wolverhampton as he’d be a near certainty there!