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Do The Bookies Have The Wrong 3yo Favourites In The Doncaster Opener?

The Portland Handicap was the obvious race to cover for Saturday but it would be very much a case of throwing a few darts at that race and you could feasibly back a horse that is beaten half a length and it could still be unplaced so instead I’m going to cover the 1.15 at Doncaster which gets underway before the ITV cameras begin rolling at Doncaster.

This is a mile handicap for 3yos and above and with twelve runners set to go to post it will hopefully be a lot easier to find the winner than the Portland Handicap later on in the card. Once again I’ll be mostly concentrating on ‘hot form’, a deeper dive into the strength of each horse’s form to date.

The Runners

King Ottaker

Mostly contested group races so far and only wins to date have been on soft ground. Arguably his best run to date was in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and he hasn’t run particularly well in all three runs this season, all of which were over 10f on softer ground. It would be a surprise if he was competitive here off 102 back at a mile on drying ground.

Teston

Started the season off with a surprise 6 length win over course and distance at 20/1 and has raced twice in France since. That win was admittedly impressive but he beat very little that day with thirty-six runs from those in behind since and just six places (no wins). He’s gone up 11lbs for that victory and he probably left his chance of further handicap sucess this season behind with that victory and the inevitable hike in the weights that followed it.

Another Touch

Put together a hat trick of wins on the all weather over the winter but has since found a triple figure rating beyond him. He’s now dropped to a mark of 98, his highest winning rating on turf, but he needs to return to form having been beaten 10 lengths at York last time out off a 5lb higher mark when sent off 100/1. That race was a hot contest to be fair with the 2nd filling the same spot in a Group 2 next time, the 3rd winning a Group 3 on his next start and the 6th winning a handicap easily on his next run. The 8th also franked the form with a 2nd next time but Another Touch was 6 lengths behind even that runner so can’t be considered similarly well handicapped.

Firmanent

Was a half a length behind Another Touch last time out at his beloved York, the first below par run he’s ever put in at that venue. His very best form seems to have come at York but he was 2nd at Meydan earlier this year over this distance off a 1lb higher mark so isn’t hopelessly handicapped at other courses.

He’s also 1lb lower than his 4th at Newcastle in June in a race that has worked out supremely well.

The winner of that race, Sir Busker, has since gone up 19lbs in the ratings, the runner up, Dark Vision, has risen 12lbs. Meanwhile the 3rd, Fifth Position, won his next start and is now 5lbs higher. Firmanent was just 0.75 lengths behind Fifth Position so is on a workable mark having dropped 1lb since then.

His last run is a worry as it was a rare blip but it’s worth noting that was Sean Kirrane’s first ride on the horse and he was ridden more prominently than usual which might help explain things. If none the worse for that effort he could run well here.

Magical Morning

Beaten over 8 lengths on his penultimate start and over 16 lengths on his latest run but represents Gosden/Dettori so sure to have some supporters. He won a novice stakes impressively on seasonal debut but a 4 length beating of Mayfair Pompette (struggling in handicaps off 74) in receipt of 6lbs isn’t worthy of a handicap rating of 97 here. He followed that up with another novice win here, over course and distance. On that occasion he was a length ahead of Dreamloper, giving her 12lbs, and she’s since won off 85 which helps explain Magical Morning’s lofty rating.

His first poor run came on rain softened ground at Newmarket in a listed race which gives him an excuse for that and his next flop came on his first try over 10f at Goodwood. He did run like a non stayer that day but didn’t run like a horse ready to strike when back in trip.

This handicap mark isn’t beyond him based on his sole run at this venue and perhaps the return here could revive his fortunes and the drop back in trip should definitely suit but he still needs to prove his well being.

Misty Grey

One of two runners for Mark Johnston. He made a belated seasonal debut just a week ago at Kempton, keeping on well in what is likely to turn out to be a strong race. He met some trouble early in the straight and shaped as though he’d definitely improve for the run. He was ridden closer to the pace last year so the fact that he was held up in last at Kempton suggests that run was definitely designed to bring him on.

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As is often the case with one from this stable, he had a busy juvenile campaign with nine runs and he was highly tried (less than 5 lengths behind Golden Horde in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood).

He’s run at Doncaster before, finishing a nose behind Lazuli in a 3 runner conditions race. That runner has scored easily at listed level this season whilst Brad The Brief, 1.75 lengths back in 3rd, has also won a listed race this season. He looks well enough handicapped to win a race this season and is likely to be seen to better effect ridden closer to the pace this time.

Aweedram

Returned in good form this season after losing his way last year. His 2nd to Alternative Fact at Haydock in July off a 5lb lower mark has been well enough advertised since with every runner from the first 6 who has run since at least placing subsequently.

He’s not the most straight forward though, has shown his best form on softer ground and is having his first run for Kevin Frost having left Alan King since his last run. He’ll be of more interest later in the season back on softer ground.

Matthew Flinders

The most lightly raced contender in this field, he was a fairly warm order dropping back to a mile last time out at Sandown and ran well enough in 3rd, beaten less than a length. He raced a bit wider than ideal on that occasion but didn’t seem to have any obvious excuses. Grove Ferry, 5th that day, has since finished 3rd but did look as though he’d improve for the run at Sandown and a similar comment applies to Raaeq (a head in front of Matthew Flinders last time) who won comfortably on Friday with the better ground suiting when successful.

He’s up 2lbs and entitled to be competitive once again with the form of his last race beginning to work out well but both of the runners who have boosted the form were entitled to improve a fair bit on their next starts. He is clearly not badly handicapped but I do have a feeling he is only fairly handicapped. It's not a shock that he's the early favourite but he doesn't look a value play.

Overwrite

He’s been fairly consistent all season, running as though this mile trip is his optimum when not quite getting home in four attempts over further. His mile form stands up pretty well, he lost a class 2 handicap to Tempus in the stewards’ room in August and Tempus has come out and won again since. His limitations were slightly exposed on his next start in a big field of unexposed 3yos at York when 6th, 4.25 lengths behind La Trinidad who reopposes here.

He’d be perfectly entitled to finish around 3rd or 4th here but no reason why he should reverse the form with La Trinidad and vulnerable for win purposes once again racing 7lbs higher than his last win.

Diocles Of Rome

Bit of an eyecatcher here over a furlong shorter last time out on seasonal debut in a decent race, being outpaced when a slow early gallop lifted before staying on really well late on. The winner, just 0.75 lengths in front of him that day, finished a close 2nd next time off a 2lb higher mark.

Ghlayoon, 2nd in that race, was a better than the bare result 3rd on Friday and Breanski (6th) finished 3rd here this week when probably inconvenienced by a drop back in trip on that occasion. So whilst this race hasn’t thrown up subsequent winners yet, those that have run have each emerged as pretty much the best horse in their respective races.

This is his first run over a mile in over 2 years and it’s impossible to say if all his improvement since has come because he dropped back in trip or because he was gelded ahead of that drop back in trip. On the face of it he shaped as if needing further last time but the early gallop was steady that day and given he can be keen in his races he’d be a safer bet in a well run 7f.

Other than his recent close 5th here he previously won by 2 lengths at Doncaster so clearly goes well at the track.

Sandret

After winning on his sole appearance at this track, over 2f further, he’s largely struggled.. He’s been tried over 12f this season (failed to stay) and now has his first run over a mile in 13 months.

The winner of his last race, when he was beaten over 5 lengths into 5th, has remarkably since won a Group 1 (Audarya). It would be best not to take that literally and instead look what the rest of the field have done since. The 3rd, What’s The Story, ran okay back at his favoured York whilst the 4th, Dark Jedi, has finished runner up in two good races since. Sandret was 2.5 lengths behind Dark Jedi though and arguably the best gauge of his handicap mark is Cockalorum who was a short head behind him and has run twice since. Cockalorum finished 4th on both subsequent starts running pretty well in a big York handicap before not being quite in the same form next time out.

Sandret’s last run was a fairly good one, certainly better than it looked, and a 2lb drop gives him half a chance of being competitive at a price (around 16/1 at the time of writing). His last run at a mile was off a 5lb lower mark and he was beaten on the nod by a nose by Romola who has since rated a stone higher so he’s certainly not a no hoper, but he’ll need a strong pace to aim at.

La Trinidad

An improved performer at 3 having shown very little last year as a juvenile. He won comfortably over 8.5f on his seasonal debut and the horse to get closest to him on that day and have run since was Phoenix Approach who won two runs later. He followed that win up with an easy 5 length win here at Doncaster (7f), a victory that saw him rise 12lbs in the handicap. The 3rd from that race has won twice since but there have been a fair few poor efforts too.

He remained at 7f at York on his next two starts, presumably finding good to soft ground too testing on the first of those when fairly well beaten before getting within 2 lengths of Brunch back on faster ground.

Brunch, Black Caspian and La Trinidad all met again next time out at York over a mile, finishing in the exact same placings as they did over 7f previously. Jumaira Bay ran to form next time winning a maiden (2nd in that maiden came out and won by 8 lengths) so the form of these runners stacks up. Even the 7th , 8th ,and 9th have both come out and placed.

You could argue that the form of La Trinidad took a few knocks on Thursday. Jumaira Bay and Black Caspian both ran relatively poorly but Jumaira Bay was sporting first time headgear that looked likely to not suit and all of Black Caspian’s best form has been at York. Also Eastern World, who was 2.5 lengths behind La Trinidad over a mile at York, ran poorly but he too had first time headgear on and was dropping back a furlong so it’s understandable he didn’t run to form. It’s fair to say this isn’t ideal for La Trinidad but with the valid excuses it’s not a major concern either.

La Trinidad was the one to take out of the mile handicap won by Brunch at York. He was held up in last and denied a run from 2.5f out to 1.5f out but he flew once in the clear and is probably unlucky not to be unbeaten over further than 7f this season. He’s up 4lbs for that effort and it would be no surprise to see similar hold up tactics employed again, but probably with more success over this straight mile in a smaller field.

Draw and Pace

With only 12 runners here the draw isn’t going to completely make or break any of them.

All metrics point towards a middle draw being advantaged but a low draw not being far off. High drawn runners have performed really poorly on good ground over a mile in this sort of field size. Jockeys seem to have preferred to go near side in a lot of races this week when possible but you get similar data regarding high being a disadvantage on both good to firm ground and good to soft ground so I’m inclined to think a middle draw is definitely going to be ideal.

A few runners in this race are going to want a decent pace to aim at so let’s check out a pace map.

There is every chance Teston and Overwrite take each other on up front. There is also a good chance that Misty Grey is ridden much closer to the pace this time, he led on three of his final five runs last season, but you’d assume Mark Johnston wouldn’t want both his runners cutting each other’s throats. Magical Morning’s best form has also come when on or near the pace so expect to see him close up.

With most of the pace drawn central they’ll almost certainly elect to come up the centre of the track.

Verdict

You could make some sort of case for many. Magical Morning has too many question marks and I expected much bigger than 7/2 on him so he looks no value at all. I respect Matthew Flinders but also suspect he isn’t as well handicapped as many think he is so I’m going to put a line through him too. If Matthew Flinders is successful be sure to put First Winter and Zegalo into your tracker as both were close up in his last race.

There are some trip question marks over Diocles Of Rome and Sandret. Don’t be surprised if the latter massively outruns his odds but in a race with some solid contenders both are too risky. Diocles will remain of interest over 7f.

Overwrite is very much exposed and very vulnerable for win purposes. His stable mate Misty Grey was ridden to pick up the pieces last time and whilst he’s of some interest, this may be too strong a race for him. Look out for that runner in a slightly less competitive contest or if his Kempton run begins to work out.

That leaves La Trinidad and Firmanent as most interesting. Firmanent needs to bounce back from a rare poor run but reverting to hold up tactics here should help. The very early 25/1 offered on him looked far too big and even the 20/1 available at the time of writing looks a mistake.

Firmanent finishes 2nd twice as often as he wins though and he’s never won a handicap away from York so whilst he is likely to run well in defeat, it is La Trinadad who is drawn in the centre stall who gets the vote. He hasn’t run a bad race on ground that is good or better this season, those runs have all worked out pretty well and he should probably be undefeated at this distance this season. He has a course win to his name and should definitely rate higher this season. At an early 11/2 he looks a very fair each way bet in this contest.

Speed May Be Favoured In Tough Doncaster Handicap

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

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

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

The Runners

Shabaaby

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

Chiefofchiefs

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

Byline

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

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

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

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

Musicality

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

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

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

Tranchee

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

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

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

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

Manigordo

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

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

Ghalyoon

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

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

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

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

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

Danzan

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

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

Edgewood

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

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

Broken Spear

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

Sunset Breeze

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

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

Pace and Draw

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

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

Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

Big Priced Runner In A League Of His Own?

Many are going to file Thursday’s 3.45 at Doncaster, a 7f handicap for 3yos, under the ‘too difficult’ category. By looking at the strength of the form of each runner, as opposed to just the bare results, we can hopefully make a bit more sense of the somewhat limited form on offer here.

This should help us differentiate between those who are overrated, and therefore underpriced, and those who are underrated, and therefore overpriced.

The Runners

Milltown Star

Had ten runs as a 2yo, culminating in a French listed win, but only one start so far as a 3yo. That latest effort came off this mark just over a week ago in very testing ground at Goodwood over this trip. No runner has since come out of that race so we don’t know the strength of the form but it’s worth noting that his best form has come with plenty of cut in the ground and he was beaten twice in nursery races last year off 87.

Persuasion

Difficult to weigh up his form. Beat some promising types on his debut and was sent off favourite for a Group 3 on his next start but he found that too much too early. He performed better next time, again at Group 3 level, but was a well beaten 7 length 2nd to Wichita. He’s best judged on what he beat that day and it looks as though he earned his mark of 99 without it being generous. On his only run this season he was sent off 250/1 for the 2000 Guineas and beaten 21 lengths. He drops back in trip here which may suit but it’s 96 days since we last saw him and plenty has to be taken on trust.

Happy Bere

Relatively exposed now and ran okay in defeat in three runs in Doha earlier this year. Hasn’t run since February and for a new trainer, after a break, off a mark of 95 he has plenty of questions to answer.

Lexington Dash

Won a small field handicap easily in June off 5lb lower and has struggled since. The 2nd in that race hasn’t run since but the 3rd has been beaten similar distances in two starts since whilst the 4th won next time but that was up in trip, on very different ground, so mixed messages.

Two of his three defeats since have come on soft ground and it’s possible that hasn’t suited. He ran much better on soft over 6f than 7f but his 4th at Newmarket may have come in a hot looking 17 runner handicap but it’s worth noting the twenty-four subsequent runs from runners in that race have yielded just two wins.

Sandwiched between those soft ground efforts was a 5 length beating in the Stewards’ Cup. He didn’t look to be crying out for another furlong that day, which would help explain the heavy beating he took over this trip next time on softer ground. If he wins off this mark it’s probably more likely to come at 6f than 7f.

Eastern World

Still quite lightly raced and a very consistent runner to date. He won a Newmarket maiden over a mile beating Lawahed (now rated 85) by 2 lengths and Jalwan (now rated 76) by almost 7 lengths so on that run alone you wouldn’t say Eastern World is badly handicapped off 94.

He proved a mark of 90 was workable next time out over the same course and distance when 2nd in a pretty strong handicap at the July Meeting.

The 4th and 7th both won comfortably next time out and there have been some 2nd places too for other runners. Finest Sound let the form down a little but clearly didn’t run to form as Eastern World ran in the same York race and performed much more creditably.

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In that competitive York race Eastern World looked the winner 1f from home despite a poor draw and on that evidence this drop back in trip may well suit. His chance probably depends on the effect of the first time cheekpieces. Using the ‘Profiler’ on the Geegeez racecard page we can see that cheekpieces are one of only three types of headgear on the offspring of Dubawi that are a profitable angle if backed blind which gives you hope they’ll sharpen him up.

Mister Snowdon

Unraced as a 2yo but has seen a racecourse five times in 2020 and he’s contested several races which give us a good idea of where he’s at. His last two runs have come in handicap company, the first over 6f at Yarmouth and the most recent at 7f at Goodwood. That Yarmouth run hasn’t worked out with the winner, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th all failing to place since. His Goodwood run has worked out a little better with several runners placing on their next starts but that race has failed to produce a winner in seven races since so Mister Snowdon doesn’t look handicapped to win on either of those runs, for all he seems better at 7f than 6f.

Haqeeqy

One run as a 2yo and seemed to improve at 3 winning back to back races comfortably in novice company. He failed to beat a rival home on his handicap debut when contesting the Newmarket handicap in which Eastern World was runner up. Given the manner in which he was beaten it seems that there was more than just the handicap mark to blame but he didn’t beat much in his two novice wins and he’s a risky proposition for now.

Cold Front

Runner up on his first three starts, he finally got his head in front at the 4th attempt with a comfortable 4 length victory over Raeed (rated 80). That effort was enough to see him go off favourite (rated 91) in the competitive 1m handicap at York in which Eastern World finished 5th. He was well beaten though, by over 10 lengths, and connections now reach for the tongue strap on this drop back in trip. The drop in trip should suit but he’s not thrown in on what he’s achieved so far and has to bounce back after that below par effort so there’s enough risk at the price.

Jumaira Bay

With four handicap runs this season this early favourite for the race is one of the easier runners to weigh up. On his seasonal bow, over a mile, he was runner up behind Nugget (won since) and a few lengths ahead of Carlos Felix (won since). He then dropped back to 7f which seemed to bring about more improvement

He was a big eyecatcher in this race, having to wait for a run and finishing best of all into 3rd. With the 2nd and 4th winning next time and the 6th winning both starts since this looked really hot form so it was no surprise that Jumaira Bay went very close next time, going down by a short head at York. That was disappointing at the time but the horse that beat him, Brunch, won again next time in the same handicap Eastern World finished 5th in and Cold Front ran poorly in. The 3rd and 4th behind Jumaira Bay in this race filled the same positions behind Brunch once again on his next start.

Jumaira Bay was raised 5lbs by the handicapper for that run and ran in a maiden next time. Sent off at odds of 1/2, he could maybe have been expected to win by more than ¾ of a length but the runner up that day shed his maiden tag next time by 8 lengths and he was already 80 rated so in hindsight Jumaira Bay ran to form.

This runner looks to have really solid credentials here with all his runs this season coming in strong races for the grade. It’s worth noting that like Eastern World, he’ll be sporting first time cheekpieces.

Siyouni is the sire of Jumaira Bay and backing his offspring in cheekpieces results in a bigger loss than any other kind of headgear. It’s also worth noting that Roger Varian has a strike rate of 18.92% in handicaps with all runners since 2009 and just 8.64% during the same period with cheekpieces on and none of his handicap winners in cheekpieces seem to have come in double figure fields.

It sounds strange to question a trainer who has won this race in three of the last four years but in what would have ordinarily been one of the most solid bets of the day there look to be some serious warning signs.

Broughton’s Gold

Highly progressive runner with four wins from his last five starts. He beat three subsequent winners on his penultimate start at Windsor and is 8lbs higher today and then he proved himself on faster ground and at this trip of 7f last time with a win off a 4lb higher mark than he carried at Windsor. He was all out to beat Dancing In The Woods that day and that runner let the form down with a poor 7th at Ascot on his next start so it’s probably fair to say Broughton Gold’s best form so far is on softer ground at 6f. That’s not to say he won’t rate higher yet over 7f and he’s certainly one of the leading contenders.

Ziggle Pops

Back to the mark he won off on seasonal debut at Lingfield in a race where the top 10 finishers have failed to win since from a combined thirty-one runs. He found life tough in better races since and there is little to suggest he’s going to strike here without finding major improvement from somewhere.

National League

Pretty consistent last year when winning twice from five starts, not beating much but running creditably behind Mums Tipple in the Yearling Stakes at York. This year he’s looked better than the bare results in all three races and it’s fair to say the bare result still isn’t too bad.

On his seasonal debut he looked in desperate need of further than 6f around Lingfield and he was only beaten 3 lengths by subsequent listed runner up Jovial. The 3rd and 4th, 1.75 lengths and 1/5 lengths ahead of him respectively have won three times between them since and the 5th and 7th have also won since.

Stepped up to 7f next time for the first time, he was a creditable 5th in a race where the 2nd, 3rd and 6th have all won since. He met trouble in running that day and would have gone closer with a clear run. Then at York next time out, in the race where Jumaira Bay finished 2nd, National League seemed to be going as well as that rival a few furlongs from home but instead of following him through the jockey went for a different gap that never appeared. As a result he was never put in the race and effectively had a racecourse gallop. He most likely would have been in, or very close to, the places that day and let’s remind ourselves how that race has worked out.

Only one handicap winner there but Jumaira Bay ran to his rating next time out, La Trinidad and Black Caspian where not far behind Brunch again next time out and both Amaysmont and Abstemious both ran well without the run of the race on their next starts back at York. Whilst Jumaira Bay is now 5lbs higher, National League has dropped 1lb for the first time this season. Based on how much closer National League should have got in to Jumaira Bay in that race, with the swing in the weights it’s fair to say that there isn’t as much between these two runners as the odds suggest (4/1 and 28/1 respectively at the time of writing).

Black Caspian

This runner has run really well three times at York this season and was just under 3 lengths behind Jumaira Bay at York before running well again over a mile at the Ebor meeting, ahead of Eastern World that day. He’s got strong form in the book and on those runs looks overpriced at 14/1. However he’s shaping like a bit of a York specialist with the rest of his form not quite matching his York form. It’s only s small sample size (one handicap run away from York) but his run style is suited to York so whilst he’s well capable of placing, he’s slightly riskier than it may look on first inspection.

Pace and Draw

Doncaster is generally quite a fair course but is there a draw bias in these conditions?

It seems from the above data that although all runners have a chance, all metrics point to middle being the most favoured place to be with high slightly more preference for high than low.

Pace wise there is generally no course bias over this trip and any pace bias is likely to be dictated by how the races are run.

At the very least we should get a solid pace in this race with Black Caspian almost certain to be at the head of affairs with Eastern World almost certainly tracking him. Don’t be surprised if Persuasion also provides a bit of pace for the low drawn runners, he made the running last time out but that was the first time he’s been ridden so aggressively.

Verdict

Very competitive and with many in with some sort of chance it’s best to seek the value here. On all known form Jumaira Bay should go very close but there are some negative stats concerning the headgear so at the price he is passed over. If the headgear does have a positive effect than it’s probably another win for Roger Varian.

At a much bigger price I’d rather back National League each way at 28/1 with bookies paying 4 places. He’s run several good races in a row, better than the bare result on each occasion and good ground at a track like Doncaster should suit him nicely. He’s probably perfectly drawn in stall 7 and has pace drawn near him to aim at. Richard Fahey won this in 2016 and 2018 so it’s unlikely he just sends any old runner to this race.

Spirit Has The Hot Form At Doncaster

It’s great to see some bigger fields at Doncaster this week after declining field sizes at this meeting in recent years. For those who like a ‘difficult’ handicap to solve there won’t be many tougher races than Wednesday’s 3.45pm, which will be live on ITV3.

The main angle I like to use when looking at a race (other than evaluating the ‘shape’ of a race which is a must for everyone) is the strength of the form of each runner. The Hot Form Report is a great way of finding runners with strong form and we can also use the Future Form button on each race result page to find out how races have worked out since they were run.

The Runners

Sky Defender

Sky Defender has an extremely consistent profile having finished outside the first 4 in just one of seven starts since the resumption of racing. That’s despite racing in some of the most competitive handicaps this season. The bad news is he’s been beaten off this mark in 4 consecutive handicaps and in his last 6 starts he’s only finished ahead of one subsequent winner from the top 10 finishers in his races which is quite a damning stat. His overall profile suggests he’s more than capable of placing but there isn’t much to suggest he’s well enough handicapped to win again.

Pivoine

Pivoine hasn’t shown much form this season, beating just four runners from a possible twenty-nine. He has an obvious chance based on much of last season’s form, including a win in the John Smith’s Handicap off a 4lb higher mark but his form this season is a big concern and he hasn’t won away from York in his last eighteen runs. Faster ground would probably suit better too.

Dubai Horizon

He’s largely been campaigned over further this year and has shown very little in two runs in the UK over 14f after being in decent form in Meydan. He won in similar conditions over this distance at Sandown 2 years ago off this mark and made an okay reappearance in the Cambridgeshire after a 373 day break a year ago. Last year’s Cambridgeshire was an extremely hot renewal, of the first seventeen runners home, ten have won since and two haven’t raced since. He definitely has a chance based on much of his form but current well being has to be taken on trust.

Fox Power

He has some decent form in the book and largely ran well in defeat on the all weather over the winter. He often got the run of the race in those contests though and his turf form is yet to quite match his efforts on artificial surfaces. He made a slightly underwhelming return in the Hunt Cup and this step up in trip doesn’t look an obvious move so it’s fair to say he’s one of the less likely winners.

Caradoc

He’s clearly talented but he’s been expensive to follow this season. He’s been favourite or close to favouritism on his last eight runs and has been defeated in the last four of those. The closest he has got to winning this season was in the Investec Handicap at Epsom and although he didn’t get the run of the race he was still beaten over 4 lengths. Only one of the top 10 finishers in that race has come out and won and he seemed to benefit massively from a wind op. He’s clearly well thought of but that is leading him to being massively overbet and whilst he might well win, he’s once again a shorter price than the formbook entitles him to be.

Derevo

This runner has a similar profile to Caradoc. He had a good strike rate last season and hasn’t yet won this season whilst probably being better than the bare results in his races. He made a perfectly satisfactory seasonal debut in a race where every other runner in the first 6 has at least placed since. He followed that up with another good effort at Goodwood when slightly better than the bare result but no subsequent winners finished in the top 10 in that contest. He was well held last time out when the ground probably went against him at York. Just like Caradoc his profile is determining his price rather than his form and he’s another that might be an underpriced winner of this race but is probably best left alone.

Rise Hall

Still relatively lightly raced and he was progressive last season, running well in several decent handicaps. He’s been well below par on his last three runs, including both runs this season. That’s left him well handicapped on last season’s form but it’s a leap to back him to return to form.

Aasheq

Underwhelming form in two runs this season after 394 days on the sidelines. He’d be of extreme interest on much of his 2019 form, particularly his Epsom effort behind Mountain Angel.

Aasheq Form

Aasheq Form

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The 1st and 4th both won their next starts and the 2nd won within two runs but Aasheq hasn’t quite been able to re produce that form since. It’s perhaps worth noting that his best form has been when ridden handy and he’s largely been held up since that run. Keep this horse in mind for an in running back if he gets a prominent position.

Hypothetical

The big unknown in this race and one of three 3yos. He won easily at Chelmsford on debut last year as a 2yo but has been regressive since. He was 4th in a Group 3 on his seasonal debut which doesn’t sound a bad run but he was sent off 15/8f for that race. The smart Pyledriver was 2nd that day but the 3rd has been beaten in handicaps off 98 twice since suggesting that Hypothetical’s mark of 97 is no gift. He was way below form on his turf debut on soft at Royal Ascot and even if translating his all weather form to turf on slightly faster ground here he’ll still have to improve. That’s possible from a thrice raced John Gosden runner but the combination of Gosden/Dettori ensures he’s shorter than he should be.

Data Protection

Been in good form since his wind op after being beaten by Sky Defender. He’s 8lbs higher now though and all six subsequent runners in the two races he has won have been unplaced since. It’s worth noting that he has faced Sky Defender since the gelding operation and in receipt of 19lbs he beat that runner by a neck. Data Protection is now 4lbs worse off so has his work cut out to beat Sky Defender again.

Starcat

A creditable 7th in the 2000 Guineas behind Kameko, beaten 12 lengths in June. Well beaten on handicap debut (soft) in the hot Britannia Handicap and put in a much more measurable run at Glorious Goodwood when a staying on 5th over this sort of trip behind Junkanoo. He was only beaten 2.5 lengths and to the naked eye he looks a real contender here. However looking at the Future Form of that Goodwood race shows that the race has worked out terribly.

Starcat Form

He’s entitled to improve with the extra experience and in this bigger field but he certainly needs to.

Groveman

Habitual front runner, campaigned over further for the past two years. He’s at his best when able to dominate small fields (three wins have come in fields of 5, 6 and 8) and this step back in distance doesn’t look an obvious move off a near career high mark.

Mayfair Sprit

Boasts an impressive 50% strike rate on turf compared to just 14% on the all weather. He was a big drifter last time out (went from 5/2 to 13/2) but ran just okay in third on very fast ground on his first try at 12f against two rivals who got the run of the race. He’s perhaps better judged on his previous effort when victorious at Windsor over 11.5f. That race was particularly hot form with the 3rd, 4th and 6th all winning since.

Mayfair Spirit Form

He’s twice a winner on good to soft ground but that Windsor run came on good to firm so he’s versatile with regards to underfoot conditions and given that he’s generally held up and proven over slightly further he’d be ideally served by a good gallop here.

Strait Of Hormuz

The final 3yo in the field and one who has been in good, consistent form this season. He won on his reappearance over a mile at Haydock in what was certainly a hot race with each of the four horses that followed him home all winning since.

Straight Of Hormuz Form

He shaped as though he’d get further that day which is no surprise given he is by Derby winner Sir Percy. He again shaped as though wanting further than a mile on his next start at Ascot when not seen to best effect off a slow gallop and he duly showed improved form next time out at Chester over this trip. He shaped well in 2nd, fairly well placed off another slow gallop but it’s a concern that the nearest seven runners to him that have run since from that race have all failed to place. He’s an interesting runner and gets the handy weight for age allowance from his elders but he arguably achieved less last time out than it initially seemed. However his previous strong run at Haydock shouldn’t be forgotten, for all he is now on a 7lb higher mark.

Pace and Draw

Doncaster is generally considered one of the fairer tracks and that is certainly backed up by the draw data over this trip on good ground:

Doncaster 10f Draw Stats

There is almost nothing in the win, place and PRB data so no concerns over the draw for any runner here.

So how about the pace of the race?

Doncaster Pace Map

First of all, Doncaster as a course is very fair and one that tends to suit hold up horses over this trip on this ground. The place data is more useful than the win data here and runners from mid division have the best place strike rate, but there is very little between prominent, mid division and held up. The main takeaway is you don’t really want to be forcing the pace.

On fair tracks the pace of the individual race is likely to have the biggest say on the outcome and whilst the pace map is pointing towards lone pace from Groveman, it would be no surprise to see Sky Defender or Fox Power dispute that lead. Either way it certainly seems as though those nearer the rear won’t be disadvantaged.

Verdict

No real course bias to rule many out, although you probably won’t want to be on the pace.

In terms of form there are many in with chances in this race, at least half the field, but many of those are too short on what they have achieved so far and/or have been running in races that have worked out poorly. This does look a hot race so any runner that has recently beaten other well handicapped horses should be favoured.

There is every chance Strait Of Hormuz improves for this trip at a more conventional track than Chester and it’s not his fault those behind him let the form down last time, although it’s a worry that horses that got very close to him didn’t run well on their next starts. He gets weight from his elders here and looks by far the best of the 3yos.

There has to be a feeling that Mayfair Spirit has been very much underestimated here though. If he came here off the back of his Windsor win he’d be half the current odds of 12/1 and he still very much ran as if in form last time out.

And if in running backing is your game check out what position Aasheq takes up early on. If he's racing prominently it might be a sign that a big run is on the cards at a price.