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Headgear Return Gives Outsider Major Chance In Haydock Handicap

An interesting selection of live races this week and several appeal as betting races, none more so than the 1.55 at Haydock. This is a 7f handicap likely to be run in very testing conditions at Haydock. With rain forecast for most of the day on Friday we are almost certainly looking at heavy ground all round for this contest.

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Draw

Here’s the draw data for this sort of field size in testing conditions at Haydock over 7f.

Not a massive sample size but it seems a low draw is likely to be favoured here. A massive fifteen of the nineteen wins in this sample have come from either low or middle draws. The place data echoes this with low draws having a place percentage of 31.88%, middle draws having a place percentage of 27.40% and high draws having a 21.74% place strike rate.

Given we’ve got a smallish sample size here the PRB data could be most telling. Low draws have a pretty impressive 0.56 PRB, compared to 0.47 and 0.46 for middle and high draws respectively. This metric suggests there isn’t as much between middle and high draws as the win or place data indicated.

With some sharp swings in draw data between low, middle and high, hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture of where good draws become bad using the individual stall data.

Now the first thing we have to do here is look at the sample sizes. Stall 14 has provided just one runner and stall 13 has provided just two runners. It’s pretty remarkable that those three runs have produced two wins which is in direct contrast to the general low v middle v high draw data but given the small sample size with have to take it with a huge pinch of salt.

That’s especially the case given the next four best stalls according to the individual PRB data are 4, 1, 3 and 2 (in that order) and the worst three stalls are 11, 10 and 12. The larger data samples indicate low is good and high is bad, for all it’s clearly possible to win from very high stalls.

There will have to be some debate about the highest stalls but there certainly seems no debate that the lowest four stalls are advantageous in these conditions, despite the tendency for the runners to swing into the middle or nearside of the course in the straight on testing ground.

Pace

It can sometimes be hard work making up ground when conditions are testing, is that the case for a venue that seems to have more than it’s fair share of testing conditions?

In medium sized fields here the winningmost position is held up but given much more runners have been held up compared to other run styles, this is actually statistically the least advantageous position with a place percentage of just 19.66%. So you clearly can win from a waiting ride, it’s just a bit of a disadvantage to be ridden this way in most cases. In fairness this is a general trend in all horse racing and Haydock is amongst the fairer courses.

The highest place percentage of 41.07% belongs to those ridden in mid division, whilst there is very little between front runners and prominent racers with place percentages of 31.25% and 32.29% respectively.

Front runners actually have a far superior win percentage, admittedly from a fairly small sample. The value probably lies with those ridden in mid division though, this run style has been profitable to back blind both win only and each way, as have front runners to a lesser extent.

It’s difficult to make a case for front running and mid division to be an advantage but prominent not being an advantage so the main takeaway should be that whilst plenty of runners that are held up win, they offer the poorest value and win least often relative to the number of runners that are ridden that way.

Pace Map

The pace map for this race will give further clues about what kind of run style might be an advantage in this particular race.

We shouldn’t have to worry about a steady gallop here with Ffion leading early in all his three races to date plus Lincoln Park and Sunset Breeze also being happy to make the running if need be. It seems unlikely they’ll set a searching gallop on this ground given the latter two are both comfortable taking a lead but they probably won’t make it easy for each other either.

Moll’s Memory and Cold Stare seem most likely to be the back markers in this contest with Gabrial The Devil, Redarna and Tom Collins also likely to be given plenty to do.

Draw and Pace Combination

This heat map is great for figuring out the best run styles for each draw, hopefully it will give us some extra insight here.

This particular heat map is made up from a relatively small sample, although by using PRB data we at least get a data reading from every runner in every race. For leaders a low draw seems to be a disadvantage whilst early leaders drawn in the middle perform well above average.

Any other run style than front running is a positive for low drawn runners whilst middle drawn runners from mid division perform well, much better so than those held up from the same draw. Mid division is seemingly the best place for those drawn higher to be placed.

Given the small sample sizes above I also want to take a look at the data including non handicaps.

Now we see fewer fluctuations in the data with a bigger sample. Wider drawn front runners perform well again, prominent racers have good PRB figures, especially those drawn low, whilst if you are drawn in mid division the lower your draw the better and being held up from anything but a low draw also looks a disadvantage.

The Runners

Here is the full list of runners, in early odds order.

Ffion

A sound starting point for this race given he finished 2nd over course and distance on heavy ground just two weeks ago. He looked fairly handicapped off 79 going into that race having beaten a reliable 69 rated yardstick on his previous run, giving that runner up 5lbs and an almost two length beating. That rating of 79 also marries up well with his debut performance too.

He was beaten last time out, and by 4.5 lengths, but the winner came out and won an 18 runner handicap at York under a 5lb penalty by a similar distance the following week so he clearly bumped into one on that occasion.

He’s drawn in stall 4 here, statistically the best draw of all, and his front running style is certainly no disadvantage on this ground. The one negative is perhaps the other pace angles could make him go faster than he wants early but other than that he looks tough to beat.

Sunset Breeze

Having looked well handicapped on his last two runs of last season he was perhaps a shade disappointing from a good draw at Ascot, not beaten far (3.75 lengths) but never looking likely to play a part in the finish. It could be argued he’ll come on for the run but Sir Mark Prescott’s horses have generally been running okay fresh. A simpler explanation was the ground was too soft at Ascot.

Now this horse does have a win to his name on soft ground, but that was off a 15lb lower mark with a winning margin of just a length against a now 17 race maiden. In two soft ground starts since he has finished 6th and 10th , whereas his two subsequent good ground runs have both resulted in 2nd place finishes.

I’d be keen to back this horse on good ground but I’m happy to oppose again on this ground.

Moll’s Memory

Certainly no ground worries for this two-time heavy ground winner, the more rain the better in fact. She also has wins on good to soft to her name and they came over 6f so she's not a slow horse either.

She’s looked in the grip of the handicapper in three runs this season so far but two of those came on good ground and the other was on the all weather (met trouble in running and did third best of the hold up performers that day). Those runs have seen her drop 3lbs in the handicap back to her last winning mark of 84. This is stronger than the race she last won though and stall 11 seems a slight negative for a hold up performer. With the ground now turning heavy she'll be popular in the betting having won both her heavy ground starts (off this mark and higher) but her draw and run style combination is a bit of a negative.

Tom Collins

A very hit and miss performer last year who was either beaten 7+ lengths (four times) or he either won (once) or got beat a head (once). The form of his win, in October, is very strong with the runner up rating 12lbs higher soon after and the 3rd winning twice since (admittedly on a different surface at Southwell).

A gelding operation and a switch to William Haggas’ stable seem two positive moves for the horse and in my Thirsk Hunt Cup preview, in which he made his seasonal debut, I stated that the ground would probably be too fast but he’d be interesting on softer ground, probably dropped in trip. Well here he is in softer ground down a furlong.

He's only 5lbs higher than his last win and although he finished 12th last time out, that was on fast ground, held up against a pace bias and he was beaten less than 6 lengths in a hot race, certainly running as if in form. His best form has come when held up and that’s potentially a problem here given his very wide draw in stall 13.

There is also a headgear question mark as he’ll be running in first time cheekpieces. The good news here is that William Haggas seems pretty adept at using cheekpieces his overall PRB in handicaps with and without headgear in the past five years is exactly the same (0.60). He’s a really interesting runner who will be wanting them to go hard up front to help him overcome his draw and pace combination bias, which is the most off-putting factor with this runner.

Cold Stare

Exposed mudlark who at the time of writing is entered at Goodwood on Friday but he’ll likely get softer ground here so for the purpose of this preview it will be assumed that he isn’t running on Friday.

David O’Meara’s runner has been in decent form this season, starting off his campaign with an eye-catching 5th on ground that was far too fast at Redcar. In three previous runs on fast ground he had faced fifty-three runners and beaten just two of them! He was beaten the best part of 7 lengths in soft ground in the Victoria Cup at Ascot on his penultimate start but he was drawn very low that day and ended up finishing 2nd in his group. He followed that up with a 2nd at Thirsk, dropped back to 6f on soft ground. The winner got the run of the race that day and the 3rd has come out and gone one place better since so that was a good effort.

The horse has a solid record at Haydock over 6f/7f on ground with the word soft in the description, producing form figures of 18912. He’s below his last three winning marks and if being held up is no disadvantage in this contest he comes here with a decent chance.

Lincoln Park

Pace angle that will love the ground. His effort last time at Chester, when beaten 13 lengths can be disregarded as he went very hard early to try to lead from stall 11. He’s a course and distance winner in heavy ground and his career form figures at this venue read 13752. Based on that 3rd, which came last summer, he’s handicapped to finish a couple of lengths behind Cold Stare in this.

His last win at 7f came two years ago and he’s arguably been getting quicker as time goes on (was placed over 5f last season). If he can repeat much of last season’s 7f form off a slightly lower mark here he is entitled to run well though but he seems likely to find a few too good though.

Raatea

A lightly raced 4yo who did best of those that were held up last time out (and he was given an extreme hold up ride so can be marked up further) at Newcastle, ahead of Moll’s Memory. He’s entitled to come on for that and looks interestingly handicapped. All his turf runs have come on much faster ground to date and this much softer going has to be a concern.

All of the dams winners came on the all weather or fast ground whilst the sire’s two best place percentages in turf handicaps came on good to firm and firm ground according to the Profiler tool. The sire’s runners also perform very well on artificial surfaces so it’s no surprise he ran so well at Newcastle last time. He’d be of most interest if running on the all weather next time but would also take plenty of beating in the right company on fast ground.

Silver Samurai

Well beaten last time out from a poor draw at Chester but in good form before that in two runs at a mile at Kempton. He’s still lightly raced and has won on soft ground before – that was a wide margin maiden win against none other than the now higher rated Sunset Breeze. He also ran well here on good to soft ground over a mile last season but ran poorly on soft ground at Newmarket in August. He was below par on his next and final start last season on good ground so it might have been more than the soft ground that caused the poor performance at Newmarket but given he won his only start on good to firm well it does seem that faster ground probably suits better. He shapes like the drop back to 7f might suit but his best form is at a mile so that’s another question mark, as is stall 12.

Stone Soldier

Archie Watson’s runner was progressive at Southwell over the winter, winning three times, but he’s one from thirteen on turf and hasn’t threatened in two turf runs this season. His sole turf win did come in soft ground but that was at Chester, a course where his best two turf runs have come. Away from Chester on turf he’s never got within less than 5 lengths of the winner, even off lower marks.

Arafi

Relatively lightly raced 4yo who landed a hat trick of handicap wins in earlier this year. The softest turf she has faced is good to soft and she was successful on it but she was rated 67 that day and is running off 90 here. She’s probably fairly treated off her new mark and this is definitely her trip but she was a bit below par last time out without an excuses and does have to prove herself on this ground. Nice draw though.

Lord Oberon

Was just ahead of Raatea and Moll’s Memory on his penultimate start (better placed than that pair) but he has a much better strike rate on artificial surfaces and wasn’t in the same form on turf last time out. His sole turf win came on soft ground at Doncaster when beating Cold Stare into 2nd and he’s weighted to confirm that form with his shorter priced rival, for all that run came the best part of three years ago.

Apart from that Doncaster win, his best turf form has come at Haydock producing form figures here of 228234. You could argue that he’s better at 6f as his last five turf starts at 7f have all been underwhelming but he finished 1st and 3rd on his last two runs at this distance on the all weather and he’s run well in two 7f handicaps on turf earlier in his career.

His latest turf effort was underwhelming but the ground wasn’t soft enough (only good to soft) and he raced away from the rest of the runners. If you can forgive that, returning to his favourite turf venue he looks overpriced.

Redarna

Campaigned over a variety of trips in the past twelve months ranging from this 7f to 10.5f. He ran well for much of last season, winning twice, but hasn’t yet hit those heights this season. It’s worth noting that his form first time out between 2017 and 2020 was 5980 and his second time out form during the same period was 1171. The season he finished 7th on his second start he won both his 3rd and 4th start. It’s therefore a little disappointing he didn’t improve on an okay 5th on seasonal reappearance this season as he was last 6 here on his second start after a break but that run came on good to firm ground and he’s generally enjoyed a bit of cut in the ground, for all he has a couple of wins on faster ground.

Lack of headgear may also be to blame for the poorer runs this season. For the past two seasons he’s won the first time he’s worn them that season and they are back on here. In two years he’s gone from being rated 68 to 92 thanks to that headgear so it seems significant it is back on here.

What’s really interesting about this runner is his record at this 7f in cheekpieces. He’s finished 1st on three runs and runner up in the other. Admittedly the first two efforts came off much lower marks and the two more recent runs came at his beloved Ayr (form figures of 1111241 there).Whilst possibly not as good at other venues the ground would have been fast enough for all those 7f runs and he is two from two on soft ground at all venues. He’d be pretty much unbeatable off this sort of mark on softer ground at Ayr’s 7f but he can outrun his odds massively here too from the lowest stall.

Gabrial The Devil

Not the most consistent but he’s versatile with regards to underfoot conditions (won on good to firm and heavy) and he’s also won at this course. All his wins have come at 6f and whilst he has run okay at 7f it’s generally been a sharp 7f and this will be a proper test at 7f so he’s opposable based on stamina as well as recent form.

The Verdict

Certainly not the easiest contest to call. Of those nearer the head of the market Sunset Breeze still has to fully prove himself on this ground and seems relatively easy to oppose. Raatea should be in your trackers for all weather races and perhaps fast ground races but he too is opposed on this ground as are Silver Samurai and Arafi who both have other question marks. The trip, in combination with this ground should also catch Gabrial The Devil out, and he too is opposable on other grounds too.

Lincoln Park has it in him to run well but he’ll have to be at his best to get close to winning this so although he’s not completely ruled out for a place, he doesn’t make the shortlist. Stone Soldier’s only appeal as a turf runner comes at Chester.

That means the winner is most likely to come from Ffion, Moll’s Memory, Tom Collins, Cold Stare, Lord Oberon and Redarna.

Tom Collins is really interesting and is the sort who could overcome all the negatives here if things click in the first time cheekpieces. He’s inconsistent, probably poorly draw and likely to be poorly placed given his run style. He also has to prove himself at 7f and in the cheekpieces so there are just too many negatives to get involved. He was also reported to have been unsuited by heavy ground the only time he encountered it, for all that was in his 2yo days.

Lord Oberon and Cold Stare are old rivals and are closely matched on a couple of older bits of form. They are also very familiar with Haydock's heavy ground too. Cold Stare has held his form better over the years and most of this season’s form gives him an excellent chance. Both horses like it here but Lord Oberon seems slightly more in the handicapper’s grip currently so at similar prices Cold Stare is more preferred from the pair but both could run very well.

Ffion is the completely unexposed one here and he’s open to more improvement. He’s completely proven in conditions and surely has to run well. He didn’t beat a whole lot in behind last time though and if he was a stone or more well in he would have made more of a race if it with the easy winner. At the prices we can let him win.

Moll’s Memory is really interesting on heavy ground and has a good record at Haydock so seemingly has every chance of making it three from three on heavy ground. Her price has been contracting on Friday though and her draw and run style combination might leave her slightly disadvantaged. She also doesn't have that much in hand of Redarna on their meeting at Musselburgh earlier this season and Redarna potentially has more scope for improvement from that with cheekpieces refitted.

Given the odds it’s the far more exposed REDARNA who looks the more interesting bet here at around 20/1. He’s run poorly in two runs here but both of those came without cheekpieces on and on faster ground. This trip on this ground could be absolutely perfect for this runner and he’s well drawn and tactically versatile. Paul Mulrennan is three from five on the horse (only beaten on good or faster ground) and the kicker here is the stable form. In the past twelve months Dianne Sayer has a PRB in handicaps of 0.55 and in the past 30 days that has risen to 0.67. Redarna has won both times he’s worn cheekpieces having not worn them in the previous race, including off this mark in soft ground. If he does let us down we'll recoup losses when she next turns up at Ayr.

Charles Hills Has Strong Hand In Haydock Handicap

We seem to be seeing lots of small fields at the moment which aren’t making great betting contests but the 2.50pm at Haydock on Saturday, a class 2 7f handicap being shown live on ITV, has 13 entries and looks to have a nice shape about it from a betting point of view.

Remember, you can get your first 30 days with Geegeez Gold for just £1. This trial will give you access to all the tools used below.

Draw

A fairly big field, going around a bend, so let’s first take a look at the draw in this contest.

Looking initially at the low vs middle vs high data, It certainly seems as though a low draw is an advantage over middle or high. The most important data here is the PRB (Percentage of Rivals Beaten) as every single runner in every single race is producing data for us with this metric. The low draw PRB is 0.53 whereas for middle and high draws it is 0.48.

Low draws also have the best win percentage but high draws actually have the best place percentage. This is likely a slightly quirk of the fact that we have a relatively small sample size of nineteen races.

Looking at low vs middle vs high is great for an instant insight but digging into the individual stall data should tell us where a good draws starts to become a bad draw.

By sorting this table by PRB3 we are combining individual stall data with the data from each stall either side in order to avoid any data anomalies from single stalls. The fact that the ‘best’ six stalls are the lowest six stalls is pretty telling here. However we should also note that stalls 11 and 12 score well enough to suggest that whilst a lower draw (bottom six stalls) is almost certainly some advantage, a high draw isn’t the end of the world.

Pace

Pace is another crucial aspect to cover over the 7f at Haydock on decent ground.

We once again have a fairly limited data set here so place percentage is going to be most enlightening for us in giving clues about a pace bias.

The place data tells us that front runners are most likely to place here, all other things being equal, and they’ve racked up a pretty decent 31.03% place strike rate. However going all the way back to those held up, there is still a 25% place percentage for the most patiently ridden runners. With a relatively small difference in results for the most extreme types of ride it seems that this is one of the fairer courses as far as pace biases go.

Prominent racers seem to have performed relatively poorly but there is no reason why this should be the case so it’s probably just a symptom of having relatively little data.

Pace Map

With there not being much of a pace bias here (if any) the pace for this individual contest is likely to have a bigger bearing on how much of an advantage early position is. This is where the Geegeez pace map can be particularly useful and a real time saver.

Potentially two pace angles here with Gobi Sunset seemingly most likely to go forward from his fairly wide draw and Marshall Dan likely to keep on honest on the front end from an even wider draw. There isn’t an abundance of prominent runners in this but Admirality seems most likely to track the pace with Fox Champion, Dreamloper and Duesenberg (if he can get across from his very wide draw) potentially slotting in behind Admirality.

Amongst those seemingly likely to be most patiently ridden and therefore reliant on a strong pace here could be Mustarrid, Dulas, Cold Stare and Sir Maximillian.

Pace and Draw Combination

Now that we’ve checked out the pace map for this race it makes sense use one of my favourite tools from the draw tab and that’s the pace and draw combination heat map.

Not all draws and run styles are created equally, both have an effect on each other. What we can see above is that low drawn runners do extremely well from mid division and much less well when prominently ridden. That could be a positive for Firmanent and negative against Dreamloper and Fox Champion if recent riding tactics are repeated.

Those drawn near the middle seem best suited to more aggressive tactics, be it front running or going prominent. The closer they are to the pace the better and that’s good news for the Mark Johnston trained Gobi Sunset is the most likely early leader and potentially bad news from Dulas, Another Batt and Persuasion.

Higher drawn runners do well by leading or racing in mid division, with prominent tactics and to a lesser extent hold up tactics resulting in lesser performances. This would be good for Marshall Dan if he can get to the lead and is a slight concern for Cold Stare and Si Maximillian.

The Runners

Here is the full field, in early odds order, most fancied to least fancied.

Dreamloper

Consistent, lightly raced performer for Ed Walker having her first run since 5th September. The first thing to check here is how Ed Walker’s runners have been performing first time out.

In the past 30 days Ed Walker has a win strike rate of 13.89%, a place strike rate of 41.67 and a PRB of 0.59 with all his runners, suggesting he is in pretty decent form. The above shows the same sample but only those who were returning from a 60+ day break. This now shows a 11.11% win percentage, 44.44% place percentage and a PRB of 0.61. Whilst the win percentage is down, we are dealing with a sample where one more winner would have increased that percentage dramatically. The fact that the place percentage and PRB figures are slightly better for fresh runners suggests there should be no issue with backing Ed Walker seasonal debutants at the moment.

So how does her form stack up? She’s only run once over this trip in a handicap and on that occasion he was 3rd at Kempton. The winner has done nothing for the form since but the runner up did win easily on her next course and distance start and subsequently went up 10lbs. She stepped up to a mile on his next start at Ascot and beat Perfect Inch by a neck off a 6lb lower mark. The runner up had looked well handicapped heading into that contest and is now rated 10lb than she was that day but she is difficult to win with. The 3rd home won two starts later (stepped up in trip).

She’s got a likeable profile and the fast ground will be perfect whilst she’s probably not badly handicapped. It’s slightly surprising to see her back at 7f though, other than for the fact she’s sometimes keen, and this is potentially a fact finding mission to decide if she heads for the Buckingham Palace Stakes (over 7f) or the Royal Hunt Cup (over 1m), although she’ll need to win in the next month or so to get a run in either. Likely to run well but might find one or two too good over this trip.

Persuasion

Charlie Hills’ relatively lightly raced 4yo was last seen finishing 2nd in heavy ground at Leicester, having started last season in the 2000 Guineas. He hasn’t run since October but like Ed Walker, Charles Hill’s seasonal debutants have been outperforming his race fit runners in the past 30 days. In fact his runners in handicaps in the past 30 days that are coming back from 60+ day breaks have a 45.45% strike rate at the time of writing which is very impressive and those winners have all been between 11/4 and 8/1.

The runner who beat Persuasion on his last start, Tomfre, finished the season with two wins in competitive Doncaster handicaps giving Persuasion’s form a solid feel, especially with the 3rd behind Tomfre and Persuasion finishing runner up on his next run.

The question here is the ground though. He barely beat a rival home on faster ground on his first two runs last season but one of those came in the 200 Guineas so is forgiveable and the next came when returning from a three month break, presumably having had an issue. As a 2yo he coped well enough with fast ground, he won a very strong maiden on good to firm at Goodwood beating at least three rivals now rated higher than him. If he copes with the ground here he’s a big threat.

Marshall Dan

Carried last season’s consistency into this season with a 2nd at Musselburgh three weeks ago on seasonal debut. He won over course and distance in September but that was on soft ground off a 9lb lower mark. He has form on faster ground too but he has seemed to improve for slower ground over the past year or so. The winner didn’t do anything for his last time out form when running next and in these conditions he looks more likely to finish around 4th or 5th than 1st. Drawn very wide too which won’t help.

Fox Champion

He's been largely out of form for some time now, although he did run okay over 6f on the all weather last summer before reverting to type back on turf on his next starts. His chance seems to largely hinge upon a change of scenery having brought him back to form. This will be his first run for the in form Ralph Beckett and he has a pretty amazing record in the past twelve months with runners who have come from other stables.

Beckett has won with a whopping 63.64% of his runners having their first run after joining from another stable in the past year. That’s 7 wins from 11 runners and if you were to ignore runners at 33/1+ that changes to 7 wins from 9 runners. Very impressive.

He's happy at 7f on fast ground so if he was able to bounce back he would potentially be a stone well in.

Gobi Sunset

Mark Johnston’s 4yo didn’t show much last season and was duly gelded and given a five month break. That seems to have done him the world of good as his form figures since are 2122. Those runs all came on the all weather but he won twice on fast ground on turf as a 2yo.

He has plenty of pace, he went off at a furious gallop over 6f two runs ago, finding only Dirty Rascal too good in the finish and Dirty Rascal won by 5 lengths on his next start. Last time out he once again found one too good, over 7f at Wolverhampton in a class 3 handicap. He’s clearly not badly handicapped and you can be pretty sure he’ll try and make all here. He’s been ridden by claimers on recent starts and perhaps Joe Fanning taking the mount will help ensure he gets the fractions right. He’s certainly capable but might just be vulnerable late on. Not a bad place bet at the very least though.

Firmanent

Consistent but ultimately difficult to win with. His best form generally comes at York but he was beaten just a short head at Doncaster over this trip late last season with a subsequent winner back in 3rd. He’s versatile regarding underfoot conditions and has often run well on seasonal reappearance. If he’s capable of defying a mark of 94 at the age of 9 it will probably be at York but he's entitled to run well enough.

Cold Stare

Twice a winner here and capable of this kind of mark but this horse wants the ground to be borderline unraceable. Having said that, he was an eyecatcher last time out on good to firm at Redcar over a furlong shorter and a repeat of that could see him go close but whether he can back that run up with another sound run on fast ground is open to debate. Certainly one to look out for when there is some cut in the ground soon.

Mustarrid

A wide margin winner of the same Nottingham race two years running but other than that hasn’t won since 2017. He seems at his best with plenty of give in the ground and although he does have form on faster ground, he also seems better at a mile. He has been outpaced over this course and distance on fast ground before and is likely to suffer the same fate again. Plenty of Ian Williams’ flat string are needing a run too it seems.

Admirality

A frustrating 7yo who has won just once in eighteen runs for Roger Fell but finished runner up on five occasions in that same period. He’s relatively versatile but is probably at his best over 7f on fast ground, his last nine turf runs on good or better at this distance have yielded form figures of 222133522. He won first time out two seasons ago but seemed to improve for the run last year. No seasonal debutant has even placed from this yard in the past 30 days from twelve runners which is a concern. He’s never one you can write off for a place but given the current trainer record and the horse’s difficulty getting his head in front he’s easily opposable for win purposes at the very least.

Another Batt

Had looked well handicapped on several occasions for previous trainers so no great surprise David Barron was able to get a win out of him on seasonal debut last year. That win was the first time the horse had even placed on good to firm ground and it perhaps left it’s mark with the horse not in the same form on his subsequent three runs. He’s run well enough on fast ground at this trip before off higher marks so can’t be ruled out because of the ground but we do have to take his wellbeing on trust. Stable are going okay first time up this season and not entirely dismissed for all he’s very risky.

Duesenberg

Taken well to Newcastle’s tapeta surface on his last two starts and was a winner over this distance last time out, getting up by a nose in a small field event. He’s 6lbs lower than when midfield in a good York mile handicap for 3yos last season but he’s often looked a bit paceless, despite winning last time dropped in trip. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he needs deep ground to show his best and he’s opposable here over this test.

Dulas

Was well enough thought of to start his 3yo campaign last season as 5/2 favourite in a pretty warm handicap but he was too keen and was well beaten. He ran much better dropped back to 6f at Newmarket on fast ground on his next start showing his mark wasn’t beyond him. He backed that up with another decent effort over 6f at Chelmsford, given no chance the way the race developed but making good late headway. He raced once since then, finishing well beaten and found to be lame afterwards. He’s been gelded since and seems to be the Charles Hills second string behind Persuasion. Wouldn’t be a big shock to see him run well.

Sir Maximillian

A second runner for Ian Williams and although he is relatively fit from racing on the all weather over the winter, he hasn’t run for 73 days so might need this given how some of Ian Williams’ are running after an absence. He was better than the bare form on a couple of occasions on artificial surfaces over the winter but never really threatened to win. He was in good form at this course last June in a hot contest and did win as an 11yo at Chester later in the summer. He’s going to find life difficult here from a wide draw but don’t be surprised if he gets his head in front again at Chester this season, a course where he has won four from nine and never run a bad race.

Verdict

This is a really wide open contest with some sort of question mark over most of the contenders. The only ones I’d be confident of ruling out for win purposes (not that they can’t run well) would be Firmanent, Mustarrid, Admirality, Duesenberg and Sir Maximilian.

I think Marshall Dan is worth opposing on this ground whilst Cold Stare and Another Batt would also prefer more juice so I wouldn’t rely on those.

Fox Champion is difficult to weigh up but Ralph Beckett’s stable change record gives real hope that this horse could bounce back. I still prefer to not back such regressive runners but if he wins we’ll all kick ourselves for not following such impressive trainer change stats.

That leaves Dreamloper, Persuasion, Gobi Sunset and Dulas.

Dreamloper would be a bet at a mile and should run well but dropping back in trip he’s short enough for me. Gobi Sunset has found one too good on three of his last four starts and seems pretty likely to run well again but won’t get an easy lead and is no more than a fair price.

That leaves the Charles Hills trained pair Persuasion and Dulas. Both are making their seasonal reappearances which is no negative based on the trainer form and both are well enough drawn in stalls 6 and 7 respectively. Dulas is an interesting contender and worth a win only saver but he’s already been a non runner twice in recent weeks which is a concern and he may well end up being keen stepping back up to 7f.

That leaves PERSUASION as the token selection in a fiendishly difficult contest. He was probably just out of form when not running well on faster ground last season having run so well on good to firm on his racecourse debut and his trainer is on record last season as saying he should be better on faster ground which helps confidence slightly. His full brother Qeyaadah, also preferred faster ground.