Well, that's half the year gone already! We kick off the second half here and we're assisted by having free access to the Instant Expert feature for ALL races, including, of course, the following free 'races of the day'...
- 1.20 Perth
- 4.25 Bellewstown
- 5.30 Bellewstown
- 6.08 Epsom
- 6.38 Epsom
- 8.55 Newbury
The second of the two races on the Downs is the highest rated UK contest of that group of free races, so I'm going to consider the competitive-looking, small-field 6.38 Epsom, a 7-runner (was 8!), Class 3, 3yo+, Flat Handicap over 6f on Soft (Gd to Soft in places) ground. The prize is £6,700 and here are the contenders...
There are a few familiar names to regular readers of this column, as we've looked at a few of this field in previous races and we now get to look at them again!
FORM : Four of the seven (Power Over Me, Indian Creak, Top Breeze & Mamillius) have won at least one of their last five outings with the middle two of that list winning last time out.
CLASS : Muscika, Power Over Me & Top Breeze all raced at this level last time out, whilst Indian Creak, Mamillius & Epsom Faithfull all step up a grade with Magical Wish the sole class dropper.
COURSE/DISTANCE : All seven have previously over this 6f trip, but only Indian Creak has won here at Epsom, but that was over 7f.
LAST RUN : All seven have raced in the past month with Mamillius (9 days) having least rest and Indian Creak (31) rested longest.
WEIGHT/OR/SR RANGE : The top five on the card are only rated as 2lbs apart, whilst our SR figures also point to a competitive encounter with just an 8pt spread across the top 5 (Power Over Me has never raced in a Flat Handicap, so has no SR score).
TRAINER/JOCKEY INFO : Not much on the card to be honest, but it looks like the yard of Epsom Faithfull hasn't performed well here at Epsom and that his jockey is struggling for form too, as is the rider aboard Top Breeze. Conversely Rossa Ryan (Magical Wish) is denoted as bring in good form, whilst the handlers of Muscika are deemed to have a decent long-term record at Epsom.
Muscika was only beaten by a neck over course and distance here less than four weeks ago of 2lbs lower, albeit at a higher grade than today and he was probably turned back out too quickly at Nottingham when 5th of 7 off the same mark just 5 days later. 6f is definitely his favoured trip, he has a win and 2 places from 8 on soft ground, but he's probably a few pounds too high in the weights (3lbs higher than highest winning mark from last October).
Magical Wish is on a dozen race losing streak stretching back to mid-August 2020 and has been fairly well beaten in recent outings. He now drops back to 6f for the first time in 16 races and although he's now 4lbs lower than his last win, I'm not keen on his chances here, as his best form has been on the A/W or much quicker turf.
Power Over Me has had a brilliant 2021 so far, winning five of seven, but was beaten by some six lengths at this class/trip at Chelmsford last time out. All that good form has been on the A/W and has run on turf just twice so far, both in Irish soft ground maidens over 5½f when beaten by 6L and 8L. He's eased a pound in the weights, but still 5lbs higher than his last win and his turf form is a concern, even if he is 5 from 8 at this trip.
Indian Creak won a 7f maiden here at Epsom almost two years ago and has won three of fifteen starts since. he own a soft ground 6f contest at Windsor in late August last year before his form fizzled out off marks in the high-80's. He was then off track for seven months from late October to late May, during which time he was gelded and made a winning return again over this 6f trip at Windsor last time out. He only won by 0.75 lengths that day and is now up 1 class and 4lbs, making this much tougher.
Top Breeze is also up 4lbs from a career-best win last time out, but does at least have a 3lb jockey claim to help him at the weights, unfortunately that jockey is 42 races and 42 days away from his own last win although he has made the frame on both rides aboard this horse. The horse himself is 3 from 11 at the trip, has won a couple of Class 2 contests and had a string of placed finishes off marks in the high-80's and low 90's last season, so a good run of 89(-3) shouldn't be beyond him.
Mamillius was headed late on and beaten by a neck over 7f at Brighton last time out, so the drop back to 6f might suit him here. He last won just over a month ago, also at Brighton, but over this 6f trip and is only rated 1lb higher here today. He has been in cracking form since taking September, October and November off in 2020, winning 3 and placing in 3 of 8 runs since the start of December and if Ok after just 9 days rest should be involved once again.
Epsom Faithfull is the only filly in the race and she's rated some 7lbs lower than the next in the weights and that's probably fair for a horse without a win since landing back to back 6f successes in the autumn of 2019. It's almost a year now since she last ran on turf, suffering a 10 length defeat over 6f on good to soft ground and I think she's destined to struggle here, especially tackling Class 3 for the first time.
At this point, I'd say that I'd be leaning towards (alphabetically) Indian Creak, Mamillius, Muscika & Top Breeze to beat the other three home, but let's now check how all seven have fared in similar conditions in the past via today's feature Instant Expert...
Both Muscika & Indian Creak have won on soft ground before and the former's three places from seven on soft is a good record, as are his 10 places at Class 3. Top Breeze has a poor looking record at this grade, but has two wins and four places from nine sub-£2ok Class2 outings. It's Muscika & Mamillius on the course figures with the former the pick at this trip from a place perspective.
None of the three I didn't like after round 1 have swayed me over just yet, but Instant Expert looked very good for Muscika's chances of a decent run.
I think I'd want a horse I fancied to have a high draw here and although I had to expand the search parameters to get a more reliable sample size...
I think the above would also suggest a high draw would be advantageous and if we look at stall by stall...
...and we do a little maths, I think we get to a similar point. Stalls 1 to 5 have 16 runners in each on that graphic with stalls 6 to 9 having 32, so if we said stalls 6 & 7 had 16 each to make it a 7 horse race, then the stats for stalls higher than no.5 are 5 wins (15.6%) and 13 places (40.6%) from 32, suggesting that stalls 2, 3 and higher than 5 are the best places to be, which is good for both Mamillius and Top Breeze from my favoured four.
The pace stats for those 16 races are interesting and the immediate take-away is that you don't want to be on a hold-up horse over 6f at Epsom...
All three other running styles are more than acceptable, but strangely the further back of those three styles you can race, the better, which gives us a really interesting looking pace/draw heatmap...
...suggesting there are plenty of successful pace/draw angles here and some shockers, but not much in between and this is how we expect our seven to race here...
That's in draw order and Tomouh doesn't run here, so we expect Muscika to try and make all from stall 5, which might not be the best plan here. Top Breeze looks like he'll race just slightly back from the pace and try to pick them off late on, but none of them look really badly suited by their pace/draw make-up.
After stage 1 of my process, I initially picked out (alphabetically) Indian Creak, Mamillius, Muscika & Top Breeze to beat the other three home and I've seen/read nothing to change my mind.
But do we have a bet? I should be saying no at this point, it's too competitive and the bookies agree with me. My four are the top four in the market, only ranging from 3/1 to 5/1, so the smart move would be to put your money away and look at another race : it's always OK not to have a bet and it's never really OK to bet for the sake of it.
So for me, it's a NO BET race. However, hypothetically, I think Top Breeze is the one I would have gone with as my winner. I've virtually nothing between Indian Creak & Mamillius for 2nd/3rd with Muscika my 4th choice, BUT any of them could win/lose, so I'm walking away from it. If I get the 1-2-3-4 correct, so be it, I'll not be crowing about it, not will I moan if none of them win.
There's always tomorrow!