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Racing Insights, 1st July 2021

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.

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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.

Summary

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!

Racing Insights, 5th June 2021

Last piece of the week from me, and Saturday's 'feature of the day' is the Trainer/Jockey combo report and our free 'races of the day' are...

  • 1.50 Listowel
  • 2.30 Doncaster
  • 2.35 Epsom
  • 3.20 Tramore
  • 4.00 Musselburgh
  • 5.00 Worcester

The Epsom race is clearly the best of the six freebies, so let's see if we can unravel the 2.35 Epsom, aka the Princess Elizabeth Stakes. It's a 10-runner, Group 3 contest over 1m½f for 3yo+ fillies and mares. The going is officially said to be Good to Soft and these are the runners competing for a first prize of £39,697...

A decent enough field here, even if it doesn't look like the strongest Group 3 contest you'll see this summer. Only Tomorrow's Dream and Thank You Next are winless in their last five runs, whilst Lottie Marie and Illykato both won last time out. Lottie Marie is the only previous distance winner here and now steps up two classes, but the rest of the field raced in Class 1 company last time out. We have no course winners!

We've plenty of positive trainer/jockey form icons, the 3 yr old runners 7 to 9 look best off at the weights thanks to their allowances with numbers 1 and 5 the worst off. Prayer's Parent is a clear leader on the SR ratings.

Lottie Marie has been running really well on the A/W winning three times from her last five starts and finishing as a narrowly beaten (SH then NK) runner-up in the other two, but this is much tougher stepping up from Class 3 and her turf form isn't good. She's the worst rated on handicap marks and she'll struggle here.

Maamora won back to back 1m handicaps at Class 3 then Class 2 in the summer of 2019 before taking almost a year off. She returned to action to land a Group 3 contest over a mile at Sandown and then went back into the shed for 251 days prior to returning to racing at Goodwood five weeks ago. She was 5th of 6 in a 1m Listed race that day, but she was only 1.5 lengths adrift and could well have needed the run after only one previous outing in the prior 600 days! Every chance of making the frame here.

Parent's Prayer acts on softer ground and ended her 2020 campaign with a 3rd place in a Group 3 race and then by winning a Listed contest. Two runs this year have seen her finish as a runner-up in a Group 3 ove1m on soft ground and then she was beaten by less than a length last time out in another soft ground Gr3 affair, but over 7f. Definite chance here now that the ground is softer than would have been expected.

Posted won a Listed race at Sandown three starts ago, but has been beaten by 4L and 7L in two starts since and that win is her only success in 11 Class 1 races, where she has just 1 other placed finish (also at Listed class). 7f is probably her best trip and she's better on quicker ground and although she has ability, she tends to find at least one or two better than her. That'll probably happen here too.

Queen Kahlua's UK form amounts to a sole run in a listed event at Nottingham four weeks ago, when she was beaten by almost 6 lengths over 6f on heavy ground. She won twice over 7f in France, but was beaten 12 times and this looks set to go the same way.

Tomorrow's Dream is a handy handicapper, finishing 121 in three attempts, but she won at Class 5 and Class 3 and this is a far different game. She's had four cracks at Listed company finishing 7356 and this looks far too tough for her.

Illykato is unusual in this race as she's coming here off the back of both her best effort to date and also a Class 1 win. She stayed on well to nick a Listed event at Goodwood five weeks ago and has good Class 1 experience for a 3 yr old with 5 of her 7 starts being at Listed or better. She's in good nick and the 12lbs she receives from the top half of the card will be very useful.

Nazuna has the makings of a decent filly and has raced just five times so far. She won a maiden at Doncaster on her second outing and followed that up by finishing 2nd of 15 in a Class 2 handicap, beaten by just three quarters of a length over 6.5f at the same track. Her last UK run saw her improve again to get within 2 lengths of the winner, when second in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket last September. Her only other run saw her go down by 6.5 lengths on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. I'm sure she'll go on to good things, but I'm concerned about her 7 months off track and this being her first UK crack at a one mile trip and also that she's unproven on softer ground.

Statement finished 221 in maidens last Autumn, winning on heavy ground. She returned from 177 days off track to almost land the Gr3 Fred Winter at Newbury in mid-April, but the game Alcohol Free held her off by a short head and although she was only 8th of 11 next/last time out a fortnight ago, that was the Class 1 1,000 Guineas and her first time over a mile, but she still got to within 6 lengths of the winner. A similar run puts her right in the mix here!

Thank You Next completes the line-up and I'd not be surprised if she's the last on the results list too. Finishes of 3131 in her first four outings (2 x novice and 2 x nursery) suggested a bright future, but she's winless in seven races since, making the frame just once. Better on the A/W and better over 6 or 7 furlongs, there's much not much hope here.

These 10 have a combined 89 UK/Ireland runs behind them, making the frame in 46 (51.7%) of them and going on to win 22 (24.7%) races. These are great numbers, but how much of their past form is actually relevant here? Instant Expert as the answers...

Those short on time can always use the place stats above to create a quick shortlist and if you ignore the field column and then focus on the ones with most green, you won't often be too far out.

However, 22 wins spread across 9 runners (Queen Kahlua has no UK/Ire form to speak of) isn't much and certainly not enough to paint a wholly accurate picture...

...but does still provide some pointers.

Now, Epsom is known to be tricky to ride, but there doesn't actually appear to be much of a draw bias here for 10 runners at this kind of trip on Good to Good/Soft ground...

Again, as I often do, I'm going to declare the numbers for stalls 5 & 6 as anomalous and it makes no sense to me that just two stalls can be so much worse, especially as stall 7's place stats seem artificially high too. So, for me, nobody is ruled out here on draw.

Pace, however, is a different story. Hold up horses do terribly, but the other three running styles all fare better than expected and the further forward you race, the better you seem to do...

And from a pace/draw combination...

...lowly drawn leaders and a mid-division position from a high draw are the two best situations to be in. The middle stalls that didn't loo great on the draw stats (that I'm choosing to ignore 😉 ) can still win, but do need to get out race up with the pace. And based on how these horses have raced in their last couple of outings is how we see them breaking out from the stalls...

The pace looks to be in the top half of the draw with Maamora leading the way. Stalls 8 & 10 will follow her and I think that pulls Statement further to the left on the chart as she might well set off a little quicker to keep in touch.

Summary

I've got it as a three horse race in my mind. I see Maamora setting the pace, but getting tired after a lack of race fitness. If i see it right, she finishes just outside the places and I've got her closely matched with Nazuna, who has ability, but probably just won't get there this time.

This leaves me with Parent's Prayer as my pick ahead of both Illykato and Statement. She'll relish softer ground, gets the trip and is proven at Class 1. At current odds of 9/1 with Hills, I'm more than happy to get involved with Parent's Prayer.

As for the runner-up, I don't have much on my figures between the two, but Statement shades it on my write-up, Instant Expert and even pace/draw, so it makes sense that she's my backup at 9/2 with the more than capable 7/1 shot Illykato also in the frame.

Race Histories 6: City and Suburban and Great Metropolitan Handicaps

Today’s Epsom card features two longstanding races whose importance has slipped over the years, but which nevertheless have a significant place in the history of the sport. Read more