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Racing Insights, 22nd July 2021

Thursday’s free feature of the day is Instant Expert for ALL races. That’s one of the most popular features of Geegeez Gold, free to use for every race on Thursday for anyone who is a registered free user of Geegeez.

Instant Expert is a massive time saver which allows the user to check and compare each horse’s, trainer’s, jockey’s and sire’s suitability to key race conditions in just a few seconds.

The free races for free registered users on Thursday are:

1.15 Worcester
4.40 Limerick
4.50 Yarmouth
5.00 Leopardstown
5.50 Doncaster
8.00 Leopardstown

The 5.50 at Doncaster looks a decent and competitive race. With 9 runners set to go to post in this 6f class 5 handicap for 4yo+ we’ll be getting paid for three places on each way bets even if there is a non runner so hopefully we can find some value at a decent enough price.

First of all we’ll have a quick look at the pace map to check for any extremes in likely pace setup and also to get an idea of how each horse is likely to be ridden.

Now remember the Geegeez Gold pace maps are made up of an average of pace scores over either the last two, three or four races. I generally use two races as my preferred option as it considers only the most recent data. The drawback of doing that is one different run style can massively skew the average. For example if a habitual front runner badly misses the break on his most recent start and ends up being held up as a result the average is going to show his run style as something between prominent and mid division.

This is why I also like to look at the data pace map, as shown below.

Now we can see the exact run style of each runner’s last four runs. The pace map graphic suggests plenty of prominent racers but nothing likely to make the running. Looking at the data view though shows that two of these led last time out (Jems Bond and Dandys Gold) but neither runner has made the running more than once in their last four runs and both were held up three runs ago. This goes to show how difficult predicting pace can sometimes be. These two runners could take each other on at the head of affairs or they could both be held up and what they do can have a massive effect on the result.

Looking at the data, we have three real pace options and only three of these have made the running in any of their last four starts. They are Jems Bond and Dandys Gold as already mentioned plus Barrington who consistently races prominently but went from the front three starts ago. Given there aren’t any habitual front runners it is probably safe to assume this race will be run at no more than an even gallop.

Let’s now run through each contender in this and see if we can uncover anything with a much better chance than the odds suggest.

Mutaanaseq

Has finally found some consistency this season, presumably a more sound animal at the age of 6. He’s now finished in the frame in all six of his last starts, winning once in that run in a big field sprint at Thirsk. He’s now 5lbs higher than that win and has been beaten on his last three starts so this will need to be a weaker race than those contests for him to get his head back in front.

There were no excuses three runs ago at Thirsk. The winner came from a similar position and similar draw and still managed to beat him by over a length. The winner did run well on his next start (2nd) but the form in behind hasn’t really worked out. Mutaanaseq returned to Doncaster on his next run and finished a solid third, beaten just half a length and slightly unlucky in running. The 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th were all ridden close to the pace that day whereas Mutaanaseq came from near last and the front pair have both won since.

On his most recent start Mutaanaseq stepped up to 7f on soft ground and again ran on late in the day. Again the first two home were ridden much more prominently. It seems a decent pace is probably more important to him than the distance – whether or not he gets that here is open to debate.

Dandys Gold

Without a win on turf since 2018 but did run well here under similar conditions in April when 2nd off a 2lb higher mark. He bumped into one that day, the winner has won both starts since, but the form in behind hasn’t worked out at all. He hasn’t run to that level of form in two starts since, well behind Mutaanaseq at Thirsk on one of those. He’ll need to run to at least his previous course and distance form to get into the places here and he’ll need to improve a fair bit on that run to win this. There is no obvious reason why he should improve.

Blazing Hot

Often went from the front last year for James Tate but hasn’t been able to go the gallop this season for Paul Collins. The step back up to 6f could help with that and he was competitive at this distance off higher marks last season. It’s difficult to tell how much effect first time cheekpieces had last time as heavy ground may not have suited. They are dispensed with here anyway.

He’s yet to win a handicap in seven attempts but he’s undeniably well handicapped on last season’s form and this combination of fast ground and 6f should see him improve on his form this season. He was only beaten 3 lengths off a 4lb higher mark against a pace bias at Musselburgh two starts ago so there is every reason to think he could run very well here.

Hail Sezer

Still lightly raced but yet to win in eight starts and five 2nd placed finishers is a bit of a warning sign. His best bit of form was perhaps on seasonal debut this year over an extended 5f at Wetherby – the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th all won within two subsequent runs and the 3rd, 7th and 8th all finishes 2nd within two starts since. That’s definitely hot form! To finish 2nd in that race was a strong effort and even off a 5lb higher mark here you can argue he’s well enough handicapped to win. So why hasn’t he done so in four runs since?

He was runner up again on his next run, at this trip on the all weather. He chased a strong pace that day and the winner has won again since so he can’t be judged too harshly on that effort. He ran no sort of race at Nottingham on his next start at 11/8 which is a warning sign but he has bounced back from that, running 3rd and 2nd since. His 3rd place came in a maiden handicap at Redcar. He ran on strongly that day, dropped to 5f, looking in need of a stiffer test. He got that stiffer test next time over 6f at Carlisle and he got as close as ever to winning, going down just a neck in the end. He has looked genuine enough in a finish but his tendency to get beat has to be a slight concern.

Musahaba

Made his stable debut this season over 6f but has gradually been stepped up in trip since, running over as far as 10f two runs ago. Dropped back to a mile on all weather debut last time out and ran poorly. His best run by far this season was when runner up in a mile handicap at Thirsk off a 4lb higher mark and his worst effort seemingly came in cheekpieces (over 10f) and they are back on here which might be a worry. More of a worry is the sharp drop in trip and it does look a bit like connections are clutching at straws. Backing him will be a leap of faith.

Barrington

Almost certain to be well placed here. His two wins came in 2016 and 2018 in small fields on decent ground on turf, His only handicap win was off a 27lb higher mark but this is very much his level these days. He was beaten just a nose off a 10lb higher mark 12 months ago and was in fair form off slightly higher marks early this year before a 148 day absence. His return run two and a half weeks ago was pretty uninspiring but it seems very likely he’ll come on for that. He ran as though still in form at least and it’s interesting that the visor goes back on here, his best runs last season came with this headgear on.

Jems Bond

Largely out of form this season but wasn’t far behind Hail Sezer at Newcastle in May, 0.75 lengths behind and now 7lbs better off. It’s worth noting though that he’s barely beaten a rival home in his six turf runs so he’s far from guaranteed to replicate that run here. His best turf run did come over course and distance but that was on good to soft ground. His form on faster ground is even less inspiring so he’s of very limited interest here. He does sport first time cheekpieces here and they’ll have to have a hugely positive effect.

Lucky Beggar

Won earlier this season (soft ground, 5f) showing he still has it in him at the age of 11. He’s largely run as if in form since including last time out here over the minimum trip when 3rd. He’s won three times at this 6f trip on fast ground so conditions aren’t a major concern. It’s interesting that he has mostly been campaigned at 5f this season, even when looking as though a return to further would suit. His last 6f run was a 4th at Thirsk off a 2lb lower mark.

He doesn’t look brilliantly handicapped but he was a close 4th at Ripon earlier this year off a 2lb higher mark and the three horses that finished in front of him that day have all gone in since. He tends to race prominently which could be an advantage in this and his speed at 5f could also be a useful asset.

Archimedes

Finished last at 100/1 last time out and although he was placing at Southwell earlier this year it’s been almost two years since he last won and he hasn’t finished better than 7th on turf since September 2019. He’s 6lbs out of the handicap here and makes almost zero appeal.

Summary

The winner is very likely to come from Mutaanaseq, Hail Sezer, Lucky Beggar, Blazing Hot and Barrington.

Mutaanaseq and Hail Sezer look nailed on to run their races and run well. The former would make far more appeal if a stronger pace looked likely but this might be a weak enough race for him to get his head back in front. His previous run over course and distance was a very good bit of form and it did come against a pace bias. The biggest issue is the price and I wouldn’t back anything this short when the pace setup may well be against it.

Hail Sezer shouldn’t be too inconvenienced by the likely pace setup but he’s been expensive to follow. At an each way price he’d make a ton of appeal but he’s risky for win only purposes, for all he hasn’t looked to dodge it in the finish yet. Some horse’s attitudes are more resolute than others though.

Lucky Beggar is a bit shorter in the betting than I expected. He may well improve for the step back up in trip and he’s well enough handicapped on some form from this season but you’d have wanted at least an each way price to consider getting involved.

Barrington could have a tactical advantage over many and should improve for his last run. He makes some appeal but Blazing Hot makes a little more appeal as an each way bet. The longer trip will give him a better chance of being a bit handier, like he often was last season, and he showed enough signs of life at Musselburgh to suggest he can go close after another 4lb drop with the step back up in trip almost certainly a big positive.

I’d probably be keen to have a saver on a Mutaanaseq/Hail Sezer reverse forecast. That’s probably the only way to squeeze a bit of value from either horse and they do look to have outstanding claims on form in this company, for all there are some reasons to oppose them.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.