Posts

Doncaster Spring Mile Preview: Two Big Prices Against The Field

The Lincoln is the most obvious race to cover this week with Saturday signalling the return of flat racing. However there is lots of filler in that race and it looks a case of pick the ‘group horse in a handicap’ from the first few in the betting – all of whom look short enough. A few of those fancied runners could also be withdrawn if the heavens don’t open so the short prices on the remaining runners of interest would get even shorter.

I’ll therefore look at the consolation for the Lincoln here, the Spring Mile Handicap. This race looks much more competitive and one in which we can hopefully find an each way edge, using the amazing suite of tools and data on offer with Geegeez Gold of course. Don’t forget that you can get your first 30 days with Geegeez Gold for just £1 by clicking here.

Plenty of the draw and pace data in this article should still be relevant for the Lincoln itself as an added bonus.

A note on the ground before we get stuck into this. This tweet circulated earlier in the week highlighting some very firm looking ground at Doncaster. At the time of writing on Friday the ground is officially described as good, good to firm in places with maybe a couple of millimetres of rain forecast on Friday. A few of the trainers were quoted during the week that it could easily end up good to soft but that might just be wishful thinking on their part.  We probably won’t know the exact going until the jockeys give their opinions after the first race. I wouldn’t be surprised if they suggest it’s on the good to firm side but for the purpose of this preview, I’m going to assume very fair, good ground.

Draw

It wouldn’t be the start of the flat season without a discussion on the draw. Unlike many courses where there can be a clear draw advantage, Doncaster is one of those courses where the draw can be much discussed and debated. Let’s take a look at the data:

Only ten big field races have been run over this course and distance on good ground since 2009 which is a relatively small sample size. The limited data suggests high draws have been preferable with low draws earning a PRB of 0.47, middle draws having a PRB of 0.51 and high draws having the best PRB of 0.53.

If we include good to firm ground as well as good ground we see a very slight shift further towards high draws with the PRB moving from 0.53 to 0.54.

If we include good to soft ground as well as good ground, we see a slightly different set of results:

This time there is very little difference between the draws with low and middle draws generating a PRB of 0.50 and high draws having a PRB of 0.51.

So potential advantages can definitely switch depending on the ground here. Going back to the good ground data, we see 3 wins apiece for low and high draws and 4 wins for middle draws. This suggests you can win from anywhere. For place purposes though low draws are much less favoured with a place percentage of 13.85%. That doesn’t compare favourably with 23.61% for middle draws and 21.54% for high draws.

Looking back at replays of the Lincoln and the Spring Mile renewals from recent years, they have often come up the middle of the track which explains the above data. The horses on the wings of the field, from very high or very low draws don’t seem to perform quite a well as those in the middle, from a place percentage perspective at the very least. But for win purposes all draws have a chance if they don’t favour one side and come up the middle and that is what the data confirms.

The above data is grouping 7 or 8 stalls into ‘low’, ‘middle’ or ‘high’ and we should get further insight from looking at the individual stall data, which of course we can do through Geegeez Gold.

This data is sorted by PRB3, which takes into account the immediately adjacent stalls to each individual stall, making it less prone to data anomalies.

The first trend that stands out is the lowest five stalls are all amongst the worst performing eight draws. However, they’ve generated 30% of the wins so whilst they can be a disadvantage more often than not, they clearly can’t be used to rule horses out.

Now whilst the lowest five stalls have some of the worst PRB3 figures, stalls 6 to 10 produce five of the top seven results. This is historically the best performing area of the entire draw.

The line graph included with the above data is extremely useful in that it shows the areas of the draw that may be most favoured. It seems that you ideally want to be drawn in the area where low draws and middle draws meet. If you can’t be drawn there you probably want to be where the middle draws meet the high draws. If they come up the middle this makes perfect sense. Those on the flanks might see too much daylight. Those in the very centre of the draw are probably more likely to meet traffic problems. The runners that are either side of the centre probably get the best of both worlds.

Overall though we can’t be 100% sure where they’ll go and we can’t rule anything completely in or out based on the draw. Either side of the middle does seem favourable though.

Pace

Your first 30 days for just £1

A nice straight mile course and a big field, often a perfect recipe for getting the best out of hold up performers. Is that the case here though?

I’ve included all races on ground ranging from good to firm down to good to soft here. The going can affect the pace bias just like it can affect the draw bias but these aren’t extremes of going and the data appears to be pretty uniform across the different going types.

We see a massive underperformance from front runners here. With bigger fields likely to contain more front runners and a nice fair straight to run over this isn’t a huge surprise but just how badly front runners have performed from a place percentage point of view is interesting with just 9.09% of pace horses even holding on for a place.

According to the data the further back you are in the field early, the more likely you are to win. We get more data from the place percentages than the win percentages though and they suggest mid division is slightly favoured over being held up, but with figures of 23.44% and 22.31% respectively for these run styles there is very little in it. A place percentage of 18.80% is a fair enough performance, you couldn’t really argue they are favoured but it’s clearly a much better position to be in than front rank.

The fact that mid division and held up are both profitable to level stakes for each way bets, with prominent and front runners both unprofitable definitely suggests we ideally want to be on the more patiently ridden runners.

Pace and Draw Combination

I have already speculated some reasons on why the central draws and very wide draws might be slightly underperforming when the runners come up the middle. The pace and draw combination heat map could potentially shed more light on this.

The fact that there is such a huge drop in hold up runner performance for central drawn runners compared to their lower and higher drawn counterparts strong suggests these runners are meeting trouble in running.

There is no obvious reason why high drawn prominent racers perform much better than the lower drawn prominent racers or why low drawn mid division seems so much better than higher drawn mid division but that data is still worth bearing in mind given it’s based on PRB which takes into account much more data than win or place percentages.

Spring Mile Pace Map

As usual, the individual pace make up of the race will be very important, especially in this cavalry charge.

There should be a good pace on here and the fact that the majority of it seems to be amongst the middle draws again suggests that they’ll come up the centre of the course.

A strong pace here, combined with the historic pace bias towards those held up, strongly suggests that the winner, and possibly the majority of the placed horses, will come from the rear half of the field.

The likes of Ledham, Badenscoth and Queen’s Sargent will need luck on their side as they are the most centrally drawn hold up performers and they seem more likely than most to encounter traffic problems. Home Before Dusk may be another who gets trapped in the middle.

Profile

You always get a mix of horses returning from breaks against horses that are fit from all weather campaigns in this. This year exactly half the field have already had a run in 2021. Some of those have had a very active winter and others have had a quite obvious prep run ahead of the return of the flat season.

It’s very much worth noting that seven of the last ten winners of this had not run at all since the previous flat turf season. Of the three winners who had a previous run, one had run on the all weather in late November so could be considered yet another winner returning from a break. Of the other two winners one had been running over hurdles over the winter and the other had a single all weather prep run for this. Horses that have been busy on the all weather over the winter do not have a good record in this at all.

It’s also worth noting that eight of the last ten winners of this were 4yos. That age group will generally be the least exposed in this so it makes sense they do best of all. Ten of this field are 4yos, seven of which make up the first eight in the betting at the time of writing.

The Runners

I’ll run through the main contenders for this, in early odds order, and a few interesting ones at bigger prices.

Acquitted

An unexposed 4yo who had just three runs last year. The piece of form that stands out was his 2nd to Palace Pier in a Newcastle handicap. He was beaten over 3 lengths on that occasion, getting 9lbs, which is no disgrace at all but Palace Pier won more comfortably than the winning margin suggests and the fact that he turned up in a Newcastle handicap strongly suggests he was going to improve significantly on the run. So whilst Acquitted remains with potential, I wouldn’t take that run remotely literally and the form wasn’t franked in the rest of the field.

Acquitted didn’t beat a rival home on his next two starts and hasn’t been seen since July. He’s been gelded since and he could suddenly improve for a good trainer but his only turf win was on heavy and he has a lot of questions to answer given his price but strong market support may be significant.

Arctic Vega

Another unexposed 4yo representing powerful connections. He ran poorly in December on his first start for 167 days but came on for that run and won next time out, on his first run at this distance, at Newcastle in January. The 2nd and 3rd have failed to place in five runs combined since then which is a worry, as is the fact that both his wins have come on artificial surfaces. He has run just about okay on good ground previously though.

The fact that he hasn’t run in two months could be a slight concern. It’s entirely possible he was put away for this after that but if they think he’s really well handicapped why not try and win another race to get into the Lincoln which has twice as much prize money on offer?

Artistic Rifles

Two wins from three starts at Doncaster and ran well enough last time out on his first start for 161 days. The form of that run has been let down a little though, all his wins have come in much smaller fields and he’s often close to the pace which is likely to be a negative here. Add to that he’s fairly exposed now and is drawn very high which might not be ideal.

Mascat

A consistent contender, his form figures outside of Group company at 10f or shorter read 213323. He was 2nd to Palace Pier as a 2yo but his only win came in maiden company and he does turn out to be the bridesmaid too often.

He’s interesting on his mile form, which is probably his best distance, especially if he improves for better ground having had his last two runs on heavy. He’s been gelded since those runs and must have an excellent chance of placing in this, for all he’s perhaps slightly vulnerable for win purposes. It's also possible he’ll be a bit too close to a strong pace. A good run here would be a boost for Brentford Hope in the Lincoln later on.

Poet’s Lady

Another of the lightly raced 4yos. She’s never run a bad race in five starts and is proven over this trip on ground ranging from soft to good. She’s fairly handicapped on what she has done to date, especially her 2nd in maiden company last June. She was beaten 6 lengths on handicap debut but she was only receiving 5lbs from a subsequent listed winner that day so that was certainly no disgrace.

She did look as though she was ready to go a little further last time though and she probably won’t be far off the pace here which might not help her chances but she’s handicapped to be competitive and has a nice draw in stall 8.

Amaysmont

Consistent performer and the shortest priced of those that have been kept busy over the winter. He’s gone up 6lbs over the winter and had previously failed to win in six handicap starts off lower marks than this. He handles any ground and given he is fit from his all weather campaign he’s capable of giving his running plus he’s unexposed at this trip on turf but he doesn’t look well enough handicapped to win this. Richard Fahey has won this twice in the past ten runnings (and has won the Lincoln twice in the same period) and this is his only runner in either race today. Very low drawn.

Dubai Souq

A well beaten last of four runners when last seen in July running over a mile and a half. He’s been gelded and off the track since. His best performance came when a wide margin winner on soft ground over ten furlongs as a juvenile and his only run since was that poor run last time out. He should handle the ground but we don’t know if he’s trained on since his 2yo days, how he’ll handle the drop in trip or how fit he is here.

We’d have to guess at the first two issues but it’s worth noting that Saeed bin Suroor has a 19.12% win strike rate and 33.82% place strike rate with 4yos in handicaps over the past two years with his UK runners and those figures drop to 4.55% and 18.18% respectively when returning from breaks of 60+ days so there is every chance that he won’t be anywhere near cherry ripe here even if he has trained on.

Global Esteem

His form tailed off last season after a good couple of runs in the summer but he changed moved from Gaye Kelleway to Chris Dwyer over the winter and put up a fairly encouraging reappearance over just 6f earlier this month in what looks a clear prep run for this.

He made a highly encouraging reappearance last season when runner up in a race where the winner, 4th and 6th all won on their next starts. That run came over 7f and he finished well looking ready for a step up in trip and he was the only runner to finish in the first five in that race to have been held up. He followed that up with a win on his first start at a mile next time out, winning easily by 2 lengths (the runner up went close against a progressive rival two starts later) and a 5lb rise seemed fair for that. He was well beaten on his next start (possibly ridden too prominently) and then ran very poorly on his final two starts of the season.

He was only 5th at Wolverhampton last time out in a class 4 handicap but he was surprisingly dropped to 6f for that and he ran well considering he was trapped wide the whole way round. He’ll be seen to best effect if he can settle in the rear off a strong gallop here but he’s possibly drawn a bit wider than ideal in 18.

Home Before Dusk

A multiple winner on artificial surfaces but yet to win on turf and has only run once on grass since the summer of 2019. This sort of pace set up suits him ideally and he has finished runner up on ground ranging from good to soft and good to firm but he definitely seems a better horse on the all weather. He’s 10lbs lower than when beaten 11 lengths in the Royal Hunt Cup consolation last season so still needs to improve on that form.

Mostawaa

One of the likely pace angles, he won last time out at Kempton in December but has been freshened up since then. He showed some decent turf form last year on a range of going descriptions but he’s on a career high mark and faces plenty of competition for the lead, even from the nearest couple of stalls.

Queen’s Sargent

Reached a career high mark last season and versatile these day ground wise but all his winning has been done over shorter and he may struggle to fully get home off the back of a good gallop here. He’s generally ready to go early in the season (1st, 3rd, 3rd on his last three season debuts) and is likely to be seen travelling well a few furlongs from home but vulnerable to the less exposed mile specialists.

Spiorad

Ran consistently well in three all weather efforts this winter following wind surgery but was below par last time out at Newcastle a month ago. He’s fairly lightly raced for a 6yo but he’s required wind surgery a couple of times and hasn’t always been the most consistent so he’s not necessarily the type to bounce back instantly from a poor run. He’s also 6lbs above his highest winning mark.

Into Faith

An interesting, lightly raced contender at a price. Five of his nine starts have come in France, including a 2yo win on very soft ground at Longchamp. He’s 4lbs higher than when last seen in the UK courtesy of a couple of 2nd places from four attempts across the Channel. Both of those runners up efforts were behind horses that won next time out at listed level and it’s worth noting the first of those saw him finish just half a length behind Ziegfeld who was 2nd to subsequent QEII Stakes winner The Revenant in a Group 2 two starts later.

He put in two solid, staying on efforts on these shores last summer, admittedly well enough beaten in both. He was only beaten 4.5 lengths at the July meeting though in a hot mile handicap. The winner has since won in Hong Kong, the runner up is one of the favourites for the Lincoln and the 4th and 7th both won on their next starts. Into Faith actually did 2nd best of those held up in the rear in that race.

As an added bonus, his trainer David Menuisier has a better strike rate in handicaps in the past five years with runners returning from a 60+ day break than he does with all of his runners in handicaps. It’s probably fair to say Into Faith has improved for a run both seasons he has been in training but we at least know Menuisier can get them fit if need be.

Ledham

Not the most reliable betting proposition having finished last on his only start since leaving Sir Michael Stoute but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be the price he is for this. He’d be one of the favourites for this based on his form for his previous handler and although a lot has to be taken on trust with just one run in just under two years, his stable debut a week ago was better than it seemed. It was his first run in 693 days and he was dropping back to 6f for the first time in his career. He ran as though still retaining some ability over a trip that was clearly too short and wasn’t given a hard race. Such a quick turn around after that layoff is a major concern and he’s certainly very risky but there are worse 66/1 chances running this weekend.

The Verdict

Arctic Vega is probably most interesting of the favourites but it would have been preferable for some of those behind him last time out to advertise that form since. It’s not his fault he won a poor race though and he’s definitely interesting.

Mascat is capable of running well but he’s probably a place proposition once again. Meanwhile Poet’s Lady is one we haven’t seen the best of but she might end up outpaced in this.

All these shorter priced runners come with plenty of risks attached though so the value is surely found at bigger odds. Two against the field are GLOBAL ESTEEM and INTO FAITH at around 14/1 and 25/1 respectively.

The former seemed back to form last time out over too short a trip and his strong run at Sandown last year came on fast ground whilst his win came on soft ground so he has plenty going for him. His form is in a lower grade but a repeat of that Sandown effort would put him in the mix.

Into Faith is higher in the handicap now than he was last summer which is slightly frustrating given he was well beaten twice but the Newmarket race in which he ran creditably was a better contest than this and he earned his extra weight in France. He also has the handy 5lb claim from Rhys Clutterbuck.

Both are perhaps drawn a little wider than ideal but they should be ridden to best effect given how this is likely to be run.

November Handicap 2020 Preview: Kingbrook Could Take Advantage Of Early Burn Up

After a break from the race previews last week to write about hot form it’s time to delve back into the competitive race previews – this time with the November Handicap.

This is a race I’ve always had a bit of a fondness for, partly due to some decent success around a decade ago but I’ve admittedly found it tougher in recent years, perhaps because the ground has been pretty desperate more often than not.

It's been a rare drying week in the lead up to this year’s renewal so hopefully the ground won’t be too testing and the 2020 flat turf season can finish without the need to race on farcical ground.

Draw

This is perhaps the most surprising element of the race. Despite going round the bend low draws have seemed strongly disadvantaged in testing conditions over this course and distance.

In the past eleven years there have been thirteen 12f handicaps run on ground ranging from good to soft down to heavy and the lowest third of the draw has not only failed to provide a winner, those stalls also offer less than half of the placed finishers compared to middle and high draws. The PRB is also significantly lower.

Comparing the middle and high draws, middle draws have been better from a win perspective but thirteen races isn’t the best sample size to show an advantage for winners. The place data is almost identical and the PRB data is identical so there seems nothing in it.

It could be that the higher drawn middle numbers have been padding out the middle draw data so let’s take a closer look at the individual stall data.

This draw data shows that not all middle stalls and high stalls are created equal as the overview data might have suggested. Three of the four best PRB figures have been recorded by the three highest stalls.

These stalls do have the least amount of data due to the fact that we are looking at the actual stall they effectively came out of rather than the stall they were allocated in the racecard. For every lower drawn non runner each runner will break from a stall one closer to the rail. However it does seem significant that all three of the highest stalls have performed so well in terms of PRB.

It's not all bleak for the lower numbers. Stalls 2, 8 and 9 are joint third best for place percentage so we certainly shouldn’t just expect those drawn in double figures to fill all the places.

There does seem an advantage with the wider draws though. Looking at the nine stalls with the best PRB figures, eight of them are stall 12 or higher. Seven of the eight worst PRB figures come from stall 10 or lower.

Pace

We saw at Doncaster a couple of weeks ago, admittedly on extremely testing ground, that it was difficult to come from off the pace over most distances. There were no twenty-three runner races on those cards though so there is every chance this race could work out differently. To get a stronger idea of any pace bias we’ll need to look at similar big field races.

Using the same going filters as we used for the draw data, we see that prominent racers have won more often than any other type of run style, although hold up horses have fared almost as well.

As far as the place data is concerned, and this is going to be more enlightening with a sample size of this nature, mid division comes out as the best run style in front of prominent and then hold up. It’s clearly difficult to dominate from the front in a field of this size and nature with front runners having the poorest record by some distance although the Each Way PL is most profitable for front runners despite just two places and no wins -  a sign they are underestimated by the bookies.

Depending on which data you look at you could argue any kind of run style is most advantageous so it seems as though every runner should have a fair chance, although the safest option seems to be to back those likely to race in mid division.

How this race is run could have the biggest bearing on what early position is best so let’s take a look at the pace map.

Your first 30 days for just £1

It looks almost certain we’ll see contested speed in this race with Raymond Tusk, Dash Of Spice, Bollin Joan, Glencadam Glory, Hiroshima, Torcello, Beechwood Jude and Euchen Glen all more than comfortable leading. Euchen Glen is tactically versatile and has been running in smaller field, group races recently so perhaps a bit more restraint will be used here but that still leaves no less than seven possible pace angles!

This race could be a real test at the trip with those coming from nearer the rear likely to be seen to best effect. A bit of extra stamina over further probably wouldn’t be a bad thing either, especially with the ground likely to be quite tacky.

Draw and Pace Combination

We’ve already established that a high draw seems to be an advantage here but is there also a pace bias related to that draw?

The answer is no. Those drawn high seem to have an equal chance of running well whatever their run style. The data above does suggest that coming from mid division with a high draw is a disadvantage but given there seems to be little to no change between hold up and prominent it seems unlikely there is a much bigger disadvantage being placed between those positions. A quirk of a fairly small sample size perhaps.

If you are drawn low you are almost certainly going to be seen to best effect if avoiding either front running duties or a hold up style whilst those drawn in the middle have a fair chance however they are ridden but again, being either prominent or mid division is probably advantageous to those runners.

Age

A big thing is always made of the age of a horse when looking at big handicap trends but does it really make much difference, especially with only 3yos carrying a different weight for age (5lb advantage)?

In the past five renewals of this race there have been winners aged 3, 4, 5 and 7 so a fairly even spread. Arguably 4yos have faired best as they are the only age group to have a better place percentage (55%) compared to their representation in those fields (40%). The 3yos have also performed okay with a 10% place strike rate having made up 11% of the runners during that period. The older brigade, 6yos and 7yos were slightly further below par and 5yos performed least well with a 15% place strike rate compared to 25% representation.

It’s a small sample but it stands to reason that the younger, less exposed runners are likely to include the best handicapped runners.

The Odds

It's the end of the season and many of these runners have had a tough season so it would be easy to suggest this is a race that’s likely to have an upset. Plenty of big prices tend to reach the frame in this race but it’s worth noting that the last six winners of this race started at 10/1 or less.

The Runners

Sam Cooke

He looks to have been saved for this since his close 2nd at Ascot in late July but given he had previously missed 14 months of action it’s entirely possible that connections simply haven’t been able to get him to the track since then. The 4yo has had just six runs to date so there should be more improvement to come and he won his sole start on soft ground at this distance comfortably, albeit off a 10lb lower mark.

He may have been difficult to train but he’s never run a bad race when getting to the racecourse and a 3lbs rise for being beaten a nose last time out seems fair, for all that form hasn’t worked out well. Given he would have preferred softer ground on that occasion it’s probably fair to mark him up as the best horse in that race.

You couldn’t confidently say he’s well enough handicapped to win a race like this given he’s never really beaten much but conditions seem ideal, he’s lightly raced, his trainer is in excellent form and he is very favourably drawn in stall 20.

Euchen Glen

The 7yo has taken his form to a new level this season after missing two years of racing before a return this season. He’s taken his racing well this season having had nine starts in less than five months and he’s won three of his last four including the Old Borough Cup over two furlongs further and two Group 3s over this distance. All those wins came in very testing conditions.

His Old Borough Cup win came off a 8lb lower mark (form hasn’t really worked out) and on his latest win he beat a horse now rated 101 by 1.75 lengths giving that runner 3lbs so whilst his mark is fair, it’s hardly generous.

He was well beaten in this as a 4yo but he’s a different horse now. He’s entitled to go well if he is ridden a bit more patiently than he has been on recent starts and he is well drawn in 18 but he’s surely not the best handicapped runner in this field.

Kingbrook

One of six 3yos in the field and completely unexposed at this distance having had just one start over further than 10f. That run came last time out when winning the Old Rowley Cup, usually one of the hottest handicaps of the season, by half a length on soft ground.

There are early signs that race is working out okay and there is certainly plenty of strength going through his previous form. On his penultimate start he was a staying on 3rd over two furlongs shorter behind Ilaraab who won again next time out.

Trainer Ian Williams saddled the 3rd in the latest renewal of this race and the winner the year before. Kingbrook will once again be ridden by Richard Kingscote, who gave him an excellent ride last time out. He's up 6lbs for his latest win but there should still be more to come and it’s interesting that he’s not only well proven on soft ground but he also has form on plenty of different types of going. This can be an asset when going through tacky, holding ground. Very well drawn in 22.

On To Victory

Consistent on the flat this season, in the first three on all three starts. Placing has never been his issue, he’s been 2nd or 3rd on his last five completed starts, but he is winless since 2017.

His form is solid, if unspectacular, and he’s only 1lb higher than when 2nd at Ascot on his last start at this distance. He is arguably better over further, which might not be a bad thing if this race is run at a very strong gallop but the winless run is a concern.

Stall 13 is okay and there are no issues with the ground so he should run well but he doesn’t appeal strongly for win purposes.

Surrey Pride

A generally progressive 3yo who was well fancied last time out over shorter, failing to get home in very testing ground. He has previously finished almost 8 lengths behind Kingbrook at Newmarket and on that form he has work to do now just 7lbs better off.

He's the lowest drawn of those near the head of the market and not only does stall 6 look a likely disadvantage, he’s also going to be dropped out in the rear from that draw which is proven to be a bad tactic from a low draw. This could be tough for him for all he still may have wiggle room off his mark.

Dash Of Spice

Hasn’t been in the same form as 2018 this term having missed two years of racing before a reappearance in July of this year. After dropping 11lbs, 5lbs below his last winning mark, he put in his best performance of the season last time out when seen to best effect from the front over course and distance finishing 2nd to Tulip Fields who reopposes here.

Low drawn front runners tend to be disadvantaged in this and he’s going to face plenty of competition for the lead. The 4lb pull with Tulip Fields seems unlikely to be enough to reverse the form and it’s a surprise he’s the shorter price of the pair with many bookies.

Eagle Court

David O’Meara’s 3yo has seemingly improved for the step up in trip to 10f on his last two starts, winning both. Those two wins have come in soft ground, they’ve worked out pretty well (beat subsequent winners in both) and he’s won both more cosily than the winning distance suggests.

The 8lbs he’s gone up for winning those two contests is probably less of a concern than the step up in trip, especially as he was racing over a mile just three runs ago.

The excellent Profiler tool on Geegeez Gold shows that Free Eagle’s sire’s offspring perform much better in handicaps over 10f compared to 12f. In fact Eagle Court would be a first handicap winner over this trip for Free Eagle should he emerge victorious here. He’s well drawn in 21 but is going to have his stamina severely tested here and he’s probably one for the tracker for his next run back at 10f.

Strawberry Rock

A difficult runner to figure out with just four career starts. He was impressive at Ripon on his penultimate start when beating Bollin Joan (reopposes here) by 4 lengths on good to soft ground. Bollin Joan did go on to win two starts later so it clearly wasn’t a bad contest.

He wasn’t as good off an 8lb higher mark next time out in a class 2 handicap over a couple of extra furlongs at York on softer ground when 5th, beaten over 8 lengths. He was beaten before stamina came into play that day and it’s difficult to tell if the new mark caught him out or if he was just below par.

His draw in 11 is probably just about okay but the percentage call has to be to oppose him. Market support may be significant though.

Torcello

A 6yo with a decent strike rate on the flat of six wins from sixteen runs. He handles very testing ground well but he’s on a career high mark and faces plenty of competition for front running duties. All his wins have been in much smaller fields and it would be a surprise if he was good enough to even place in this.

Tulip Fields

Won well here a couple of starts back and wasn’t badly hit by the handicapper, only going up 4lbs for winning by 2 lengths. There is a suspicion that race rather fell apart though with several runners not performing on the very testing ground.

She wasn’t disgraced next time out in listed company at Lingfield, perhaps not quite getting home over an extra furlong, but didn’t do a lot to suggest she’d up to winning a race this competitive. She won’t be far off the pace, for all she’s unlikely to lead, and a place would be a decent effort.

Rhythmic Intent

The only one at a bigger price to catch my eye. It wouldn’t be a crazy assumption to think he hasn’t quite got home on very testing ground on his last two runs at 14f. If you were able to ignore those runs he suddenly becomes very interesting. His last run at this distance was a 4th in a six runner race, which on the face of it doesn’t seem great but he was only beaten 2.75 lengths and the 2nd and 3rd both came out and won easily next time.

He’s only 4lbs higher than when winning by 3 lengths earlier this season and he’s generally been consistent when faced with middle distances and softer ground. In fact his form figures at 10f or 12f on soft ground read 21314.

His draw in stall 10 isn’t perfect but 25/1 with as many as 7 places on offer for each way purposes underestimates his chances here. He was after all sent off near favourite for the Old Borough Handicap a few runs ago.

Verdict

Rythmic Intent is pretty interesting but ideally he’d have been drawn higher and he does have to bounce back from a poor run last time, even if there were excuses. Eagle Court is a big threat from a great draw if he stays but there is evidence to suggest this trip will stretch him. Meanwhile Euchen Glen appears a solid choice and he’s perhaps still improving at the age of 7 but for win purposes he’s passed over. On To Victory is a horse that will interest plenty of each way punters but he appeals more as a place only bet than anything else.

The two most interesting runners should be Sam Cooke and Kingbrook who are unfortunately both well found in the betting. Sam Cooke has a lovely profile for this but he still seemingly hasn’t done it against well handicapped rivals. That’s not his fault, he just seemingly hasn’t bumped into them yet, but for a horse trading at around 6/1 you’d probably want to be a bit more sure about his handicap mark.

Kingbrook isn’t yet proven off a mark in the mid nineties but the manner of his victory last time in what is usually a very hot race suggests he could yet rate higher. He seemed to relish the step up in trip and the handicapper hasn’t had a proper chance to catch up with him over this distance. Everything else appears to be in his favour and with just three runs under his belt this season he comes here a very fresh horse. With one bookies going 7/1 and 7 places on each way bets that appears a very good bet for all the likely very tacky ground is a potential fly in the ointment.

As it's the final big handicap of the flat season I'll throw a speculative tricast out there:

1. Kingbrook
2. Sam Cooke
3. On To Victory

Elect For Presidential At Big Price In Doncaster Handicap

The 4.05 at Doncaster on Saturday afternoon isn’t being shown on terrestrial TV with Cheltenham hogging much of the limelight. But whilst jumps fans are guessing about race sharpness for many runners I’ll be getting stuck into a very interesting flat handicap!

In a change from much of the action in recent weeks this looks like it won’t be run in heavy ground. Phew! That’s not to say it will be an easy contest to figure out, there are still 16, largely in form runners, set to go to post.

Draw

This will be fairly short and sweet as Doncaster is a pretty fair track.

Doncaster Draw Data

Looking at 7f handicaps run on good to soft or soft ground all draws have a good chance and a fairly even record of both winning and placing. The PRB figures improve slightly as the draw gets higher but the best place strike rate of all the stalls is stall 1 (36.36%) so it’s impossible to narrow the field based on the draw here.

Pace

Is the comparative pace data just as fair as the draw data over Doncaster’s 7f on softish ground?

Doncaster 7f Pace Bias Data

There is more of a pace bias than draw bias. Front runners have performed best of all here, breaking even to level stakes across the selected races. Front runners contribute both the best win strike rate and place strike rate so the data is pretty strong. Win strike rates drop the further back in the field you are and the place strike rate data follows a similar trajectory, although being held up is slightly more favourable for running into a place than being mid division is.

The IV figures are pretty strong for front and prominent runners and pretty weak for those that race in mid division or the rear so there certainly seems to be an advantage the nearer the pace you are.

The pace of the individual race can be just as important, if not more important, so let’s check out the pace map for this race.

Doncaster 7f Handicap Pace Map

So possible contested pace here which could swing things in favour of those held up near the rear. The pace will be in the centre of the pack, which would suggest they’ll come up the middle of the course which should guarantee no strong draw bias.

Doncaster Trainers

Earlier this season at Newbury I highlighted some insightful trainer data ahead of Tempus winning a handicap there and looking at how trainers approach Doncaster handicaps will hopefully give us some clues here.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Trainer Data For Doncaster Handicaps

There is some strong data based on handicap runs at Doncaster from the trainers with entries in this race. The major positives are for Roger Teal (Bear Force One), Roger Varian (Musicality), Roger Fell (Presidential), Andrew Balding (Grove Ferry) and Ian Williams (Ejtilaab).

The major negatives are Tim Easterby (True Blue Moon), Kevin Ryan (Queens Sargent), Michael Dods (Get Knotted), Richard Fahey (National League and Zap), David O’Meara (Arbalet and Firmanent) and also to a far lesser extent Ralph Beckett (Tomfre).

The Runners

Bear Force One

Still lightly raced and seemingly didn’t stay in the Cambridgeshire last time out. He’s otherwise responded well to the application of cheekpieces this season. The previous couple of races had worked out okay and could he get the run of the race here. Did win on good to soft three starts ago but probably wouldn’t want it any softer. Should run well if the ground isn’t bad and trainer Roger Teal is very profitable to follow here in handicaps.

Tomfre

Inconsistent this season but came good on heavy ground last time out at Leicester, winning by two lengths. The handicapper hasn’t got carried away with that victory only raising him 2lbs but he doesn’t appeal strongly as the type to follow up, for all it’s a possibility.

Firmanent

Ran fairly well in a good race last time out at his beloved York but he looks handicapped to the hilt on current form and is unlikely to better his York form here.

Musicality

Lightly raced and represents Roger Varian who does well in handicaps here. He was slightly below form here over half a furlong shorter at the St Leger meeting but had previously won on soft ground, for all it was just a six runner handicap over 6f and perhaps a 7lb rise for that has found him out. Has a chance but worth taking on with question marks over the handicap mark and the distance.

Grove Ferry

Returned from a short break in August in good form. He was 5th at Sandown behind two next time out winners (did best of those held up) and followed that up with two good efforts at Ascot. The ground looks fine and the drop back in trip looks a positive as his effort has seemingly flattened out towards the end of each race recently.

He's up 3lbs for his latest effort which makes life harder but Andrew Balding does well in handicaps here and if the drop in trip does indeed bring about further improvement he is entitled to go very close.

Queens Sargent

Has improved again this season but form seems to have tailed of in the last couple of races without obvious excuses so it looks more a case of having gone off the boil than being handicapped out of this, for all it’s difficult to argue he’s particularly well handicapped anyway.

Fortamour

Won a decent race last time out at Ascot over a furlong shorter but has won over this distance on the all weather. He’s only up 2lbs for that win and drops in grade so isn’t badly handicapped and he’s run well with cut in the ground this season. His last run at this distance at York has worked out well with the winner going on to land a big pot at Ascot and many of those who ran well have run well in defeat again since. Considering he has been within at least two lengths of the winner in his last eight runs at 6f or 7f this consistent runner appears likely to go well again.

Arbalet

On a losing streak of 22 races and is often overbet after running well in defeat. He was three quarters of a length behind Fortamour at York and is now 6lbs better off so he’s well treated on that form but he’s much better on faster surfaces and wouldn’t be one to back with any confidence for win purposes anyway.

Ejtilaab

He's taken advantage of some slowly run races this season and would most likely not be seen to best effect in a well run race having been well enough beaten off a 1lb lower mark at Ascot in a big field two starts ago. Unproven on softer than good so unlikely to trouble the judge in this contest.

Get Knotted

Tends to run his best races at York and he’s not the force of old. He’d have a chance on a going day with conditions in his favour but he’s not one to put a lot of faith in at the moment.

Breanski

Had no chance behind Raaeq last time at Ascot and difficult to say if that horse franked the form or let it down on Saturday in the Balmoral Handicap, finishing 5th off a 6lb higher mark. Breanksi did finish best of the rest though to record his seventh 2nd or 3rd place finish in his last nine runs. He tends to run well here with two wins from five starts (four starts at this distance) and he beat Presidential (re opposes here) by a quarter of a length in receipt of 1lb in his last course win just over a year ago. Breanski is just 1lb above that winning mark now and is another who looks likely to run very well, for all he isn’t the easiest to win with.

Presidential

Another who goes well at Doncaster, his career form figures here read 143521. He won here over course and distance in June on similar ground to this off a 1lb higher mark and the next two runs of each of the next five runners home produced form figures of 2122224335 so that was a pretty solid race even if only one of the protagonists came out and won shortly after.

He's not completely consistent generally but he is consistent here. His worst form figure came on his run on the fastest ground he has encountered at this course and even finishing 5th in that race off a 1lb higher mark was far from a disgrace as that race worked out particularly well. With everything seemingly in his favour he’s a strong candidate for the shortlist representing a trainer with a very good record in handicaps here.

Alemaratalyoum

Generally at his best when the mud is flying, he’s been difficult to catch right this season and is very difficult to make a case for based on his last couple of runs. First time blinkers are another question mark and although they could spark a revival in form, it seems more likely they’ll just make him underperform further as the sire’s strike rate with horses in this headgear combination is half what it is across all races.

Zap

Difficult to win with, this horse is now on a losing run that dates back over two years. He has been very consistent this season, and has finished 2nd on his last three starts, but this is a step up in class and a much tougher race than those contests. He was 4 lengths behind Presidential here earlier in the season and is only 3lbs better off so he has work to do.

True Blue Moon

He's had an okay season, picking up a win on his penultima start off a 3lb lower mark. He’s generally run better on faster ground this season but he was a close up 4th at Haydock three starts ago and the 1st, 3rd and 6th have all won since and the 2nd filled that runner up spot again on his next start so he wouldn’t be out of it on that form, for all he is 3lbs higher here. His latest run was less promising and he’s probably up against it in this company off this mark but not a hopeless cause.

National League

This is one I gave a good write up for at the St Leger meeting at a big price in what looked like it would be a hot 3yo handicap. He was 3rd that day and better than the bare result, not only because he found trouble in running but also because the ground would have been plenty fast enough that day. What is most disappointing is that race has failed to produce a top 2 finish from nine subsequent runs.

After a below par follow up on ground that should have suited, connections reached for the visor (retained here) and it seemed to help as he ran on into 3rd from a compromising position against two rivals that were up with the pace at Musselburgh. That run against a pace bias was arguably a career best and he’s now down to a mark he won a nursery off last season. He really seems to be crying out for another furlong now though. He’ll probably find a couple too good here but would be of huge interest if finding a mile handicap on soft ground before the season finishes.

Verdict

A race where no winner would be a shock result and many have a very good chance of placing at the very least. Musicality will be on plenty of shortlists but I’m going to go with a longlist of:

Bear Force One
Grove Ferry
Fortamour
Breanski
Presidential
National League

The first and last names on that list aren’t going to make my shortlist. Bear Force One is certainly decent value at around 16/1 but I’m hopeful Ejtilaab will compete for the lead. Plus winter ground, even winter ground that’s not terrible, might compromise his chance. National League should run on well late in the race but I’m not convinced he’s currently well enough handicapped to win at this trip.

So the most solid quartet should be Grove Ferry, Fortamour, Breanski and Presidential. The most compromised, should Bear Force One and Ejtilaab not go a  good gallop here, is likely to be Grove Ferry who is dropping back in trip. He’s also drawn very low, and therefore furthest from the pace, which isn’t ideal. He’s therefore passed over for win purposes, although he should run very well.

Breanski is really solid and will run his usual race but he’s been beaten fair and square all season and is a runner would strongly appeal as a place only bet or one to consider for forecasts and tricasts.

So that leaves Fortamour and Presidential. Fortamour has more room to progress and comes here off the back of a very good run so doesn’t really have too many questions to answer. His good runs in softer ground did come over 6f though and this sort of ground over 7f will be a slightly new test for him. Plus in stall 14 he’s drawn a little further from the likely pace than is ideal.

Presidential on the other hand has thrown in plenty of poor runs recently (well beaten in three of his last five starts) but he’s yet to fail to give his running at this course and was a fair bit better than the bare result when not beaten too far at Newmarket last time out. The recent form of both Fortamour and Presidential is very much built into their respective prices and Presidential looks the better value bet and a good each way bet at an early 18/1. The fact that Roger Fell not only has a very good handicap record here but has also saddled two winners, three places and close 4th from his last eight runners at the time of writing just sweetens the pot a little further.

I’ll also be interested in covering the shortlist of four horses in various forecasts and tricasts. Backing four runners that are likely to be nearer the rear than the front early on is perhaps not the best strategy given the pace data highlighted earlier so confidence and stakes will be kept pretty low but hopefully Bear Force One and Ejtilaab will produce a contested pace which would make things look a lot rosier for those that will be held up.

**EDIT** It looked very difficult to make up pace on the straight course at Doncaster on Friday but they didn't have any big fields like this so it should be a little easier to come from slightly further back than it was in some of the smaller fields on Friday. Presidential has often raced more in mid division than right at the back of the field so he should still be able to get involved assuming he breaks on terms.