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Haydock Pace Bias Over Marathon Trips On Good Ground

Seven of the last nine renewals of the Betfair Chase have been run on ground that was at least soft and three of the last five years it has been heavy ground but a very dry spell this year means that we are likely to be racing on good ground on Saturday. This gives us a good opportunity to have a look at potential pace biases on better ground at Haydock.

Staying trips are the main focus at this meeting with three chases over 3m+ and also the Grade 3 Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle so these distances are where I will concentrate my efforts.

3m+ Chase Pace Bias At Haydock On Good Or Good To Soft Ground

Unfortunately we have a pretty small sample size here courtesy of the fact that Haydock rarely gets extended dry spells but the data we do have suggests that this is a relatively fair course.

Races tend to be more even from a pace perspective over longer distances and that seems to be the case here with front running, racing in mid division and being held up all resulting in pretty similar place percentages. Front runners actually perform poorest of all in terms of placing with a place strike rate of 25% but being near the pace isn’t a complete disadvantage as prominent racers have comfortably the best win and place strike rates. The win percentage when racing prominently is an impressive 17.05% and the place percentage is 38.64%, well clear of the next best 27.66% for mid division.

Despite the small sample there does seem enough of a difference in the data to suggest that racing just off the pace is advantageous over longer trips around the Haydock chase course.

Given how close the data is for the three other run styles it doesn’t seem worth doing anything with this pace data other than simply marking up those that are likely to race prominently. 

The individual pace setup in each race will of course have an influence on this so we definitely shouldn’t blindly assume that prominent racers will be advantaged in every single race but more often than not they are likely to be seen to best effect here.

3m+ Hurdle Pace Bias At Haydock On Good Or Good To Soft Ground

To be able to get more data into the sample I have included races run over 2m6f as well, a move that is unlikely to dilute the quality of the sample given the similarity in distance.

Again, still not a massive sample but we are seeing a fairly strong advantage towards those nearer the pace here.

Front runners have a place percentage of 29.03% and prominent racers have a place strike rate of 30.77%. There is little between the two but both compare very favourably with mid division and held up with those place percentages reading 22.08% and 20.20% respectively.

So both front runners and prominent racers have a similar record of reaching the frame, as do those racing in mid division and the rear, but there is a pretty big difference between the two pairs of running styles.

So once again, take into account the pace setup in each staying hurdle race at Haydock on decent ground but in most cases mark up those likely to race in front rank.

Stayers’ Handicap Chase Analysis

My preferred race to get involved in on this card would be the chase run at 12.40 over a distance of just over 3.5m. Even on good ground stamina will be at a premium.

Firstly, here is the pace map for this race:

It seems almost certain that Furius De Ciergues will go forward and if similar tactics to recent runs are used on the rest of the field he’s going to get a pretty easy time of it at the head of affairs. He’s an extremely consistent sort having finished in the first 4 on each of his last 13 starts over hurdles and fences and his latest 3rd has been pretty well advertised since with winner Strictlyadancer going in again comfortably next time out. He’s unbeaten in two runs beyond 3m2f and should be able to fill the places once again as a minimum, even if he is 2lbs out of the handicap.

There are four contenders likely to track the early pace and this quartet should be in the best place according to the previous pace data here. 

Speak Of The Devil is a consistent horse on good ground and he’s very much in form having gone close last time out. He could be suited by this step up in trip but he’s generally been running in weaker looking races than this. He does look a fair price though all things considered.

Captain Drake ran poorly last time out but that was off the back of a break and after a wind op so he did have excuses. He has good ground hurdle form but he seems best suited by softer conditions and he’s not the easiest to fancy here. Jersey Bean is another who didn’t run well last time out. On the best of his form he has more than a fair chance but he’s not the easiest to predict.

Defuture Is Bright looks a bit short in the betting based on this season’s form. He’s already had two runs and did improve from first run to second run but he was still 13 lengths behind Furius De Ciergues last time out and he needs to rediscover last season’s form.

Amateur is all about stamina and he’s been a better horse on his more recent starts after a wind op. If he’s fully fit for this he’s a major contender. Silva Eclipse has won here and finished 2nd a further four times but the majority of his best form is on heavy or soft so conditions could be livelier than ideal for him.

This perhaps isn’t the strongest race with several of these having questions to answer so I think I’d prefer to play Furius De Ciergues each way given he is proven over the distance and in the ground and he comes into this extremely likely to run his race which is more than can be said about most of these.

Solid Contender At Lingfield

One runner I have been monitoring for some time is Uther Pendragon who runs in the 11.35am at Lingfield. He’s certainly not the classiest, nor is he the easiest to win with (just 3 wins from 67 starts compared) but he does have a much better record of filling the frame (23 top 3 finishes from 67 starts) and he’s now looking very well handicapped.

He’s put in numerous decent efforts in relatively good races.

On the 22nd December he was a narrowly beaten 3rd over course and distance off an 8lb higher mark. The winner won 2 of his next 5 starts and the 4th won next time out too.

On 12th January he was 3rd again over this course and distance, beaten 1.5 lengths, in a race where the 2nd, 4th and 6th all won shortly after. Uther Pendragon was rated 9lbs higher in that race than he is now.

On 5th February he was a neck 2nd, again over course and distance, and the winner won next time out whilst the 3rd and 4th would both finish runner up shortly after. That run also came off a 9lb higher mark than his current rating.

Then on 18th April at Newbury over this 10f off the same mark again as previous runs, he was ‘only’ 7th, beaten 5 lengths, but the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th all won within a couple of outings after. That was an extremely strong race and arguably the best example of Hot Form all season.

Uther Pendragon seemed to lose his form after that but enjoyed the return to Lingfield last time out, trying to make all but ending up in 3rd. That’s not his typical run style so he should benefit from being slightly more patiently ridden from a good draw in stall 2. If he tracks the pace and is in the same form as last time he should be able to at least place again so it will be interesting to see how the bookies price him up.

Racing Insights, 25th September 2021

It’s Sam stepping in for Chris just for Saturday's column. You'll be able to enjoy Chris' thoughts once again from Monday.

Saturday’s free feature of the day is the Trainer Jockey Combo Report. This is an excellent resource allowing you to find not only the most in form combinations but also the racecourses where these pairings are most likely to excel.

There are also several races on Saturday that are completely free to all. These free racecards are for:

1.40 Listowel
2.00 Chester
2.25 Newmarket
2.40 Haydock
4.05 Ripon
4.55 Chester

The pick of those races from a betting point of view is probably the 2.40 Haydock, a competitive class 2 5f handicap that is live on terrestrial TV. This means that it has already been priced up by the majority of bookies so hopefully easier to pick the early value.

It's been unseasonably dry over the past 6 weeks and more often than not this race would be run on soft or heavy ground but we are once again getting fast ground - certainly a rarity in the past at Haydock!. It’s worth noting that the ground has been so fast at Haydock at recent meetings that it has often been difficult to make up ground from off the pace. If there isn’t much pace in the race then prominent racers could have a significant advantage, if there is a good pace on the cards then it will probably be a much fairer contest.

So let’s first take a look at the pace map for this contest:

Copper Knight seems almost certain to try to lead early with Royal Crusade likely to be up there too. Coming from rear probably isn’t going to be easy given recent course evidence but there could be just about enough pace on to do it.

Key Form Lines

There are two key form lines that relate to this race.

That race over York’s 5.5f course has worked out well and three of these runners, Copper Knight, Jawwaal and Mondammej were involved in the finish that day.

This trio then met again here, on fast ground, so very relevant form in terms of this race I am previewing. If I had been picking between Copper Knight, Jawwaal and Mondammej ahead of this race above my preference would have been for Jawwaal and then Mondammej. The former is probably better over 5f than an extended 5f so the slight drop back in trip should have suited. Mondammej meanwhile would have been expected to enjoy the slightly faster ground in this second race whilst Copper Knight wouldn’t necessarily have enjoyed it – plus he gets on particularly well with York so wouldn’t be guaranteed to run to the same form at Haydock.

As it turned out Copper Knight ran a blinder chasing a fast pace and he was only beaten on the line by Mondammej, with Jawwaal not quite quick enough to finish any faster than his old rival, always around 1.5 lengths behind him.

I doubt they’ll go as hard as they did in that previous Haydock race here which could hand a slight edge back to Copper Knight, who is also 1lb better off now.

I mentioned that I would have fancied Jawwaal to beat the other two in that Haydock race but he was beaten fair and square and off a potentially slightly slower gallop here it’s difficult to see why he should reverse form with either Mondammej or Copper Knight, now 3lbs better off and 2lbs better off with those two respectively. There really should be much in it again but based on that previous run I’d give Copper Knight the narrow nod over the other pair.

Two more of this field were involved in that race – Be Proud and Mountain Peak. Both ran poorly but Be Proud bounced back to form in last week’s Bronze Cup at Ayr. Be Proud has always been a bit difficult to figure out. He often shapes like he needs further than 5f, and he stays 7f (beaten a short head over 7f this season) but all six career handicap wins have come at the minimum distance. He basically needs a very strongly run, preferably stiff, 5f. He should run better this time around than when well beaten here but he might find things happening a little quickly.

As for Mountain Peak, he used to be a bit of a course specialist here but he’s been inconsistent this season and well below par on his last two starts for no obvious reason. He’d have an excellent chance based on the form of his Ascot win in July but it’s difficult to see why he should suddenly bounce back.

Premier Power is one of those runners that is difficult to weigh up. He’s so far shown his best form on artificial surfaces, hence the split mark, and he’s fairly difficult to fancy based on his two turf runs this season which are the most relevant evidence on which we have to judge him. A fast 5f on quick ground are big unknowns and whilst it’s worth a try, he can’t be backed with a huge amount of confidence.

Royal Crusade makes his handicap debut off a mark of 103 after ten career starts. His defeat of Glen Shiel last summer reads well but he’s generally been disappointing since and he’s another where the fast 5f is a question mark.

That leaves Lihou, Mokaatil and Show Me Show Me, the three outsiders of the field. Lihou is actually quite interesting. He placed twice in July off slightly higher marks and although not running to the same level in three runs since, they have all come over a little further and his latest two efforts at Chester have come from double figure stall numbers. He might not be quite well handicapped to land this but it’s fairly easy to see him outrunning his odds.

Mokaatil is another who will be suited by the drop in trip. He’s spent plenty of his career over 6f but five of his seven wins have come over the minimum trip. He was beaten too far last time out for it just to be the trip though and he’s above his highest winning mark so I’m not overly keen on his chances.

Show Me Show Me has won twice on quick ground over this trip this season and all his best form is at this trip so his 13th last time out in the Bronze Cup, only beaten 4.5 lengths, is not a bad run at all. He was runner up to Saluti on his last run at 5f and that runner has won again since so just like Lihou it’s easy to see him massively outrunning his odds down in trip. He’s only a 4yo and was rated as much as 16lbs higher last season so could still be well handicapped.

Summary

As far as most likely winners go, this probably revolves around Copper Knight, Mondammej and Jawwaal, who are fancied to finish close together again but just about in the above order. I’d have some slight reservations about taking 9/2 on Copper Knight though given six of his ten career wins have come at York and a further two have come at Chester, he clearly appreciates those extremely quick tracks and although he went close here a few weeks ago he’s up in the weights again.

If I don’t have a strong feeling towards a race I want to find something at a bigger price that I can make a case for. Lihou, and especially Show Me Show Me, are both fancied to outrun their odds. Lihou would be more of a place only fancy but he’s a perfectly acceptable each way bet at 16/1. I’d be more confident about Show Me Show Me though who is an even bigger price at 20/1. He’s not out of form, has been running well at this trip, and ran to form over 6f last time out so I just don’t understand why he should be considered the outsider of this field.

Old Borough Cup Preview and Tips: Autumn War and The Trader Look Value Calls

A really good day of racing lies ahead if competitive racing is your thing but it does have to be said, a few of these big handicaps this weekend have slightly underwhelming turnouts. Several of the heritage handicaps are closer to half full than reaching their maximum fields and I’m not entirely sure why that is (prize money seems largely in line with what is was last year).

The big 7f handicap at Ascot makes plenty of appeal as a betting medium but personally I feel as though I never enjoy much success in these Ascot cavalry charges (even if there are fewer runners this year) whereas I find I have plenty of success in Haydock handicaps for whatever reason so I’m going to go with the Old Borough Handicap, generally one of my favourite races of the season.

All of the data used below is available through a Geegeez Gold subscription. Click here to get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold for just £1.

Draw

Only the 12 runners this year so is there still any sort of draw bias?

I’ve only included races run on good to firm to good to soft in this sample. Haydock is prone to being soft or heavy, especially this meeting, but if we include races on softer ground the data might be less relevant as the runners tend to explore different ground in the straight on softer ground. We end up with a small sample but hopefully the data is more reliable.

The win data suggests low is NOT the place to be, but in small samples the win data isn’t particularly helpful. The place percentages have high as the best but low not far behind and middle comes out worst. This data is either slightly misleading or suggests no real bias.

The PRB data is most reliable in small samples as every runner contributes to the data sample. The PRB data for this is in line with the place percentages in that high is best, followed by low, then middle.

If we want to expand our data sample, rather than changing the going parameters in the Draw Analyser, we can instead include extra distances. By including 12f races as well we get this data:

We again see a similar trend here with low draws performing poorly for win purposes, but still bettering middle when it comes to place percentages and PRB. In fact this time around the best PRB score belongs to low, instead of high, for all there is very little in it.

Given the field size isn’t huge here and the data doesn’t really have any strong biases I’m inclined to think that the draw shouldn’t have too much bearing on this.

Pace

Should we ignore pace as well?

We should never ignore pace - even at fair tracks there can be a pace bias due to the individual pace setup of the race.

The majority of winners here tend to be held up but that’s how the majority of runners are ridden. The best win percentage does lie with those held up but the best place percentages are with prominent racers and then front runners. Overall there is very little in the figures here and no strong pattern. This suggests that this course and distance is one of the fairest, both in terms of pace and draw. Barring a very weak early gallop or very strong early gallop in this contest it should be the best horse on the ground that comes out on top.

Old Borough Cup Pace Map

So will there be an individual pace bias in this race?

There isn’t a huge amount of pace in this one which could give those who race nearer the pace a slight advantage. Hochfeld is a habitual front runner whilst The Trader and Noble Masquerade tend to race prominently but other than that the rest seem likely to be delivered late.

Anything that wants further could be inconvenienced the speedier types at this trip could benefit.

The Runners

Here is the field for the 2021 Old Borough Cup, in early odds order.

Global Storm

Had been largely consistent, if not progressive, until finishing a well enough beaten 10th in the Ebor a fortnight ago. This is much easier but that performance won’t be good enough to win this. There is a suspicion that his very best form has come at Newmarket with course form figures 1161212. On top of that he seems a bit better with cut in the ground. He did finish a fair 3rd at Ascot in the Copper Horse Stakes proving he doesn’t ‘need’ Newmarket but that Ascot race has worked out really poorly, not throwing up one subsequent flat winner.

On the subject of form not working out, Global Storm’s 2nd at Newmarket over this trip on his penultimate start hasn’t worked out either, not one of the first nine finishers has won since. He’s definitely short enough in the betting all things considered, for all this isn't the strongest renewal of this race.

Noble Masquerade

With this race possibly suiting speedier types due to a like steady gallop, Noble Masquerade certainly won’t lack for speed having won over 11f this season. He does have to prove his stamina though. He seemed not to stay 14f last season at York, and generally looked to not be staying 12f. He started this season off over an extended mile and ran very well but his form really took off this season when headgear was applied, producing form figures of 2121. In regards to stamina, he rallied okay over 12f at York on his penultimate start when runner up but probably improved again for a slight drop in trip at Windsor when winning by 4 lengths. That was only a 5 runner race and Noble Masquerade has been hit with a 6lbs rise in the weights for that effort.

Given he’s by Sir Percy you’d probably expect him to stay this far, the image above shows the record of Sir Percy progeny in flat handicaps and they have won over as far as 2m1f and only have a marginally worse place percentage at this trip than at 12f but it has to be a concern that Noble Masquerade has been beaten in all five starts over 12f or further whilst he ran so well over an extended mile earlier this season. For all he’s one of the more progressive ones in the line up he’s a risky bet at the price.

Rajinsky

Throws in the occasional bad run but he’s a solid yardstick in these staying events. In fact his last six runs at 2m have resulted in form figures of 221232. However this race isn’t over that distance, it’s over 14f and his form figures over this trip are 12946. Those better runs came off 11lb and 8lb lower marks and he looked in need of further when behind Global Storm at Newmarket in July in that handicap that hasn’t worked out well. Even under ideal conditions he finds it very difficult to get his head in front so whilst he’s normally a reliable place bet at 2m, he has to be taken on over this 14f trip, especially without a strong gallop on the cards.

Rhythmic Intent

Another fairly reliable runner who ran very well last time out at York. He was a staying on 5th over 12f in a race where it favoured those who were up with the pace so to make up the ground he did suggested he’s one to be with very soon. He shaped as though in need of further that day but the ground was probably more of a factor than the distance in how he ran. His form figures on good to firm read 03645 whereas his form on good to soft or soft reads 3321311472027. Those efforts suggest not only is he much better on softer ground, but also that he’s clearly not as well handicapped as he was previously. In fairness though, he’s also been competing in much better races.

He does stay this trip, he won over 13f last season and he was a creditable 4th in this last season but he got his ground last year and was still beaten off a 1lb higher mark. He should prove more reliable at 12f on soft ground before the end of the season for all he could run pretty well here.

Autumn War

He seems to have rediscovered his form again, undoubtedly because the cheekpieces have gone back on for his last few runs. His form figures in this headgear read 11422 and he finished lame for that 4th. He ran very well last time out over 2m and if you watched that run you’d think he needs all of that trip but his last two wins have come over this distance in races that have worked out well at Wolverhampton and he’s been runner up over this trip on turf on his last two attempts.

The negatives are that he can race a bit awkwardly and he probably doesn’t put absolutely everything in. He needs to be delivered late and would have made far more appeal had there been more likely pace on offer. He should run well though at a very fair price. I’d certainly take him to finish ahead of Rajinsky over this trip.

Indianapolis

A frustrating sort who is on a nice mark now but he still seems incapable of taking advantage – or even finishing in the places. He’s finished either 4th, 5th or 6th on his last four runs and looks a bit paceless and a bit tripless. You could argue he’s worth a try over 2m2f but he’s flopped on both tries at this distance. Connections have clearly had similar thoughts as they swap the cheekpieces for a visor on this occasion in an attempt to sharpen him up but he was well beaten on his only run in a visor so it’s difficult to predict a sudden resurgence.

Alright Sunshine

Talented but unpredictable, Alright Sunshine was a narrow 2nd in this two years ago. It’s not clear what his best trip is – he has looked a stayer but then confounded that by winning over 12f earlier this season, albeit in a relatively uncompetitive race. That was his first run in a visor but it didn’t quite work so well second time out when he was midfield in the Northumberland Plate.

If on a going day he has the form to go close in this but he’s not one to completely trust and he’d make more appeal if there was more pace in the field.

Hochfeld

Probably the sole pace angle in the race and he could go well if things go his way. He definitely runs the odd terrible race but most of those come on softer ground. On faster ground he’s generally a more solid proposition and he ran a decent 4th over 2m at York, a trip that probably slightly stretches him, but he had no excuses when slightly disappointing last time out at Newmarket, a course he has previously won at.

Looking at his better performances, four of his five handicap wins have come in single digit fields but he was 2nd of 20 in the Northumberland Plate this season. He has a 50% place strike rate on good to firm which reads well with that going likely this weekend but a few other stats gathered from the Profiler tool are a worry. He’s won 3 out of 4 for Franny Norton but has not placed in five runs for Joe Fanning who rides here. He hasn’t managed a place in 5 runs in September, in fact he’s only placed in 1 of his 11 runs in the final four months of the year during his career.

He’s also seemingly much better on very sharp courses so Haydock might not suit as well as some others. He’s run here four times and has run just about okay on three occasions but was poor on the other attempt. I’d have loved to have been able to make a strong case for him given he should get an uncontested lead, and I’m not completely ruling him out, but he doesn’t look a bet even at double figure odds.

Island Brave

A pretty reliable runner who was just behind Hochfeld last time out over 2m. He’s running like a horse who isn’t badly handicapped but isn’t well handicapped though, generally finishing around the places or just outside. He runs here off a mark of 98 and his last win came off 97 whilst he’s also won off 96, 95 and 93. His last two wins have come over 2m but he has won at this trip, admittedly three years ago. He’d make more appeal over further and this probably isn’t the pace setup to bring about a career best from him so expect to see him staying on well but maybe only finishing into 5th or 6th. If he drops a few pounds he’s one to look out for over 2m on a sound surface.

Nicholas T

An absolute credit to connections and he’s taken his form to a new level this season winning the Northumberland Plate on his first run beyond 13f. That win came off just a 2lb lower mark so he’s not handicapped out of this but he does need to bounce back from some lesser runs. His run in the John Smith’s Cup wasn’t dreadful considering he was poorly placed how it was run, then a mile at Ayr wouldn’t have suited next time out. He went up a full mile in trip last time out at York and ran pretty badly but he was unruly before hand and that can’t be completely held against him.

The form of his wins haven’t really worked out and his form seems to have dropped off but he is capable of bouncing back. I just wonder whether he might be a better bet at Ayr later this month, a course where he has won seven times in the past.

The Trader

All his wins and all but one of his placed efforts have come on good or better ground so the fact that his last five runs have come on ground ranging between soft and good to soft suggest he should improve here on a sounder surface. On his last start on good to firm he won, beating Hochfeld into 2nd, and The Trader is a further 1lb better off here. That is the only time The Trader has gone beyond 1m4f on fast ground so whilst he has to prove himself over the extra furlong here (that win came at 1m5f), he is unexposed as a stayer.

Assuming he bounces back to form on better ground, he should get the run of the race here given he is likely to track Hochfeld. He’s a risky proposition, and it’s a concern he’s done all his winning in small fields, but he’s probably overpriced given the likely pace setup.

Sextant

Formerly quite smart for Sir Michael Stoute, he’s largely struggled for Keith Dalgleish. He did put in a much better effort last time out though here in a small field though, a scenario that probably wouldn’t have played to his strengths. He hadn’t run badly at Royal Ascot behind Global Storm in a race not run to suit in fairness and there is every reason to think he’s getting ready to strike off a mark 7lbs lower than his peak rating for his previous yard.

He used to lead early or race prominently but slow starts this season have meant he’s invariably been held up. If they don’t go very fast early here he’d find it easier to recover from a slow start and maybe race in mid division or even more prominently, especially given a fair few of these will likely take a pull. There are certainly worse bets at this sort of price.

The Verdict

A disappointing field for this with no bombproof looking candidates. Scottish trained trio Alright Sunshine, Nicholas T and Sextant are all capable of outrunning their odds and potentially taking this, especially Sextant who is quite tempting.

Assuming it doesn’t rain hard Rhythmic Intent is best avoided and whilst I think Autumn War isn’t to be underestimated, he’s not the most willing in a finish so he’s possibly one to back place only, for all he’s not a terrible each way bet by any means.

Autumn War appeals as the best value place bet in this but the best value win bet could be THE TRADER. If you excuse his recent form on account of the ground he comes here 2lbs lower than his last winning mark (this season) and he’s likely to be well placed off what will probably be a fairly steady gallop. He’s got the speed for shorter but should stay this far (proven over nearly this trip). He's worth chancing for win purposes but could just as easily bomb out so perhaps isn’t an each way proposition.

Racing Insights, 17th July 2021

Saturday’s free feature of the day is the Trainer Jockey Combo report and is available in its entirety to all free registered users of Geegeez. This is one of the most popular reports on Geegeez with very good reason. Users are able to compare trainer and jockey combinations over 14 days, 30 days or 1 year and can also examine their records at the racecourses hosting meetings that day, over both the past year and past five years.

If you want to find out which trainer and jockey combo have 5 wins from 7 runners in the past year at Newbury, producing a Win PL of 7.82, head on over to the Trainer Jockey Combo Report. They have two runners at Newbury on Saturday.

The free races for registered users on Saturday are as follows:

1.50 Newbury
3.40 Newbury
4.15 Cartmel
4.35 Curragh
5.20 Newbury
7.20 Haydock

It's the last of those races I’m going to concentrate on. I think Haydock is certainly one of the more straight forward courses to back at and I tend to find that I probably have more success there than at any other course.

This is a class 5f sprint handicap open to 3yo+ and 10 runners are set to go to post.

Pace is always a key factor so let’s check out the pace map to see if any of these runners may be advantaged or inconvenienced by the run of the race.

Three possible front runners in this one so there is every chance they are taken along at a pretty good pace. Any runner that relies on getting an easy lead might not get the run of things and those that like to be held up should get some decent pace to aim at.

Let’s now look through the runners for this to build up a shortlist of those most likely to run well and those that could outrun their odds.

Mountain Peak

Relatively exposed 6yo now but he’s consistent and should get close to ideal conditions. His last win came off a mark of 95 and having run well off higher marks since he’s still managed to drop back down to 96 here. He won twice last season at this venue and also has a previous course and distance win too meaning he’s 3 from 3 here.

He's maybe been slightly disappointing this season but he was only beaten 0.75 lengths when 4th on his penultimate start and the 1st and 2nd have both won since. He seems to have developed a habit of being outpaced mid race but perhaps a strong pace here could help with that, as could the return to a course that obviously suits well.

Lord Riddiford

A possible pace angle. He couldn’t quite go the early pace in the Epsom Dash after a short break but was prominent last time and his best form has come when very close to the pace. It’s been almost three years since he won on turf and although he’s back on that last winning mark he hasn’t done enough to suggest he’s about to win again and sharper courses suit ideally. The trainer and jockey are in top form though.

Get It

One of three 3yos in the race. Came 4th in last season’s Windsor Castle and has had one run this year since a wind op which was a victory in a Wolverhampton novice stakes. He beat a 66 rated rival by just a length that day, giving him 5lbs, when he was rated 27lbs superior, so needs to massively step up on that form and is surprisingly short in the early betting.

Isle Of Lismore

Another 3yo. Successful on two of his last three runs but those victories came on heavy and good to soft whereas he was beaten last time out on good to firm, albeit only beaten 1.5 lengths. The ground probably won’t be that quick but it will be quicker than his recent wins and his tendency to hang right is a concern.

Indian Sounds

Has bumped into Mountain Peak on his last two runs, finishing a neck ahead the first time and 1.25 lengths behind most recently when getting shuffled back by a weakening rival. He’s not quite as consistent as Mountain Peak but seems to have a similar chance based on their recent meetings.

Ishvara

Another that lacks consistency, he either finishes in the first two or is well beaten – the latter eventuality has been the story in three out of four runs this season. He did run well against the improving Arecibo on his ‘good’ run this season but all his best form has come on soft ground and drying conditions will be against him.

Tweet Tweet

The third and final 3yo in the line up. Sent off favourite for a warm 3yo handicap at the Dante meeting last time out but failed to give his running. She had previously beaten the winner of that contest by 2.5 lengths so although she ran poorly last time out, she actually looked a very good bet in hindsight. An absence since mid May and that poor run clearly won’t have been the plan so it very much depends on what sort of form she returns in. If she’s back to the form of her seasonal debut she’d have a massive chance even if 10lbs higher here. One to monitor in the betting.

Phoenix Star

Part of the photo finish controversy on Eclipse day at Sandown, eventually called the dead heat winner of that race. He did look fairly handicapped heading into that race but he’s been nudged up 5lbs by the handicapper to a career high mark of 82. The horse he dead heated with at Sandown was beaten just a short head in a hot Ascot handicap last weekend so he's probably capable of defying this mark. He’s arguably best over a very stiff 5f or an easy 6f though so it’s possible this could be slightly too sharp, even with a strong early gallop.

Son And Sannie

Still quite lightly raced for a 5yo but his best form for his current yard has come in two runs on the all weather. Hasn’t matched that form on turf since and is likely to have competition for the early lead here which could compromise his chance further.

Saras Hope

Relatively lightly raced 4yo who hit form in the second half of last season on testing ground at this trip with two wins. He reappeared earlier this month over course and distance on good ground and despite finishing 4th, was only beaten a length. That run suggested he was as good as ever but he looked in need of softer ground there and is unlikely to get it here.

Summary

Tweet Tweet could bounce back but she’s a risky bet and is probably only worth considering if there is a positive market move.

Isle Of Lismore and especially Get It look too short in the early betting, Phoenix Star could be a more reliable prospect than that pair but he’s slightly vulnerable over this sharper test, even with a decent pace likely.

The two who make most appeal for me are Mountain Peak and Indian Sounds. At any other venue I’d probably take Indian Sounds at the bigger price but Mountain Peak seems to get on really well with this course and distance and with a strong pace likely to suit him perfectly, he's preferred. Given they are closely linked on two bits of recent form a reverse forecast would appeal too. Both will appreciate the ground drying as much as possible.

Old Newton Cup 2021 Preview: Make It Aaddeey To Remember

Saturday is one of my favourite days on the racing calendar with the cards at Sandown and Haydock generally looking excellent betting material. This preview will be looking at the Old Newton Cup, one of the best middle distance handicaps of the season. This race will be run at 3.15pm at Haydock over twelve furlongs and this is a race for 4yo+.

The ground looks like it will be drying at Haydock, possibly leaving us on the fast side of good by the off time, although there are some showers forecast during the day. At the time of writing they are expected to remain light.

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Draw

A maximum field of seventeen are set to go to post here, with two reserves on standby if there are any early non runners. Is there a draw bias over this trip in big fields at Haydock?

Big fields aren’t the norm over this distance at Haydock so even if we include races with as few as 13 runners we still have a fairly limited sample size. We therefore shouldn’t get too carried away with the data unless seeing some very concrete results.

The overall draw data seems even, looking at the win data, but in small samples this can be misleading. The place percentage data has low and then high favoured over middle but with a smaller sample size we probably want to be concentrating on PRB as each runner is contributing to the data set, not just three or four runners.

The PRB figures for low, middle and high are 0.55, 0.49 and 0.46 which points towards the lower the better, with higher draws definitely having more work to do to get involved.

With a potentially strong draw advantage here, but also a small sample size, we’ll want to check how the individual stall data plays out. Firstly we want to see where a good draw starts to become a bad draw and secondly we need to check how legitimate the data looks in this smaller sample size.

Before we go any further, let’s establish how trustworthy this data is. The top five PRB figures for individual stalls are all 8 or lower, five of the worst six PRB figures belong to stalls 9 or above. This doesn’t look particularly random. If we sort all of this data by PRB3 the best performing nine stalls are the nine lowest drawn, the worst performing eight draws are all those in double figures. This definitely doesn’t look random.

It's not as though higher draws can’t win though. Stalls 15 and 16 have the second and third highest win percentages. Double figured stalls have won seven of the nineteen races examined. Also looking at the place percentages, stalls 16 and 14 have the best scores. A higher draw looks more like a penalty of a few pounds rather than a reason to completely oppose a horse.

Pace

Looking at a similar data sample, hopefully we can identify any possible pace bias for this race.

The win percentage data implies not much difference between front running, racing prominently or racing in mid division, with only being held up a disadvantage. There is some merit to the win data, it’s easier to run into the places against a pace bias than it is to win against a pace bias. However in this sample size the place percentage data is going to prove more reliable.

The place percentages tell us that leading can be most advantageous. Front runners have a place percentage of 28.57%, racing prominently is next best with a place percentage of 23.17% and although it drops again to mid division (19.48%) the runners that are held up perform almost as well as those who race prominently 22.43%. That suggests there isn’t a strong pace bias – yes any horse getting an easy lead is likely to outperform their odds but that goes for any race at any course.

In this particular race the pace setup of the race seems much more likely to cause a pace bias (either way) than the course does.

Old Newton Cup Pace Map

So here is the pace map for this race, compiled nicely for us by Geegeez Gold.

A potentially strong pace here which could compromise the chances of those ridden aggressively and improve the claims of the more patiently ridden runners.

The main pace angles are potentially Grand Bazaar, Lost Eden and Zabeel Champion who have led early on two of their last three runs. Brilliant Light can sit just off the pace but has also led in one of his most recent runs.

The likes of My Frankel and The Trader tend to race prominently and should keep the front runners honest throughout.

Draw and Pace Combination

This part of the draw tab is always worth checking in bigger fields.

Low draws seem to perform well regardless of their run style. There could be a concern about those in mid division from low draws but given those held up perform well from low draws, this could just be a quirk of slightly limited data.

For the horses drawn in the middle stalls it seems a front running ride can be a big advantage. The majority of the early pace in this race is drawn towards the middle so if they don’t go off to fast they are well drawn for that run style.

As for the higher drawn runners, those that race nearer the pace perform much better than those that race nearer the rear. Presumably being held up from a high draw results in them being dropped out and forfeiting too much ground early in the race to recover later in the race.

The Runners

These are the runners for the 2021 Old Newton Cup, in early odds order.

Longsider

A handicap debutant for Sir Mark Prescott. He was pencilled in to have his first run since February in last week’s Northumberland Plate over half a mile further but wasn’t deemed ready for that, connections deciding to get an extra week of work into him before going for this race. A potential early warning sign that he won’t be at his fittest.

His form does stand up though. He beat a nothing field over just an extended mile in January 2020 in easy fashion and improved for the step up to this trip last time out at Lingfield in a novice stakes, after just over a year off on stable debut, having previously raced for David Lanigan. He beat the now 89 rated Raymond by 2.5 lengths that day, giving him 5lbs. You could argue that he ran near a mark of 100+ that day the way he beat Raymond but if you watch the race back, Raymond was better than the bare result and has probably improved since for tackling longer distances. Either way a mark of 92 almost certainly underestimates Longsider.

There are negatives too though. He’s going to be breaking from the widest stall, he’s yet to run on turf (that shouldn’t be a problem though, his sire has a better handicap place strike rate on faster turf than all weather surfaces) and there is that doubt about how fit he is for this as he’s clearly been very difficult to train.

Grand Bazaar

A non runner at Royal Ascot due to soft ground and conditions will be more suitable here. He was steadily progressive last season on better ground and can certainly be forgiven a flop on his last start of 2020 which came over 14f on soft ground. He returned in good form at Newmarket when third, but only beaten a short head and a neck. The two that finished ahead of him both went on to place at Royal Ascot in competitive handicaps and it’s surprising that the handicapper left his mark unchanged after that effort.

He’s drawn okay in stall 8 but the question mark has to be field size. His wins last season were in field sizes of 6, 5 and 4 and his good run this season was in a 5 runner field. He hasn’t had many chances in bigger fields but was beaten in field sizes of 9, 10 and 11 last year and given his running style it stands to reason that he could be better in smaller fields. There is nothing wrong with his handicap mark or his form but whether he can run to that level here is open to question.

Aaddeey

A consistent runner who has had just the six starts. His form on good ground is 2121 whereas his worst two performances have come on soft and heavy. He was an okay 5th at Royal Ascot last time out and if not for the ground being an excuse you could easily argue that the handicapper has him pegged after a 13lb rise for a wide margin win at Newmarket on his previous start. On closer inspection though he could, and should, still be well handicapped.

On seasonal debut at Newbury, he was slowly away and strong at the finish over what now looks an inadequate 10f. He finished runner up in what has turned out to be a very strong handicap. The winner, who was less than a length ahead, is now running off a 13lb higher mark. Next time out Aaddeey won a small field Newmarket handicap by an easy 4.5 lengths so a 13lb rise seems fair, especially when you consider that the runner up won comfortably on his next start. The 3rd home, beaten 9.5 lengths, has finished runner up on both starts since so if anything a 13lb rise for that run looks quite lenient.

Given the ground went against him at Ascot, 5th in a strong race was a decent effort. He looks ready for even further already so a strong pace would help him (he’ll surely be a contender for the Ebor next month) and the only real negative is the draw. Stall 13 isn’t the end of the world but it isn’t ideal either, especially for one that is normally patiently ridden.

Valyrian Steel

A winner on his last two all weather runs at this distance, making his all weather form figures 111. In comparison his turf form figures now read 145. His turf win came against a now 66 rated maiden and he’s been well enough beaten in both turf handicap runs, weak at the finish on both occasions. His turf mark has gone up for winning on the all weather and even his all weather form doesn’t particularly stand up to much scrutiny, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th from his most recent (narrow) win have all been beaten since. Opposable.

Zabeel Champion

Trained by Mark Johnston, who has won three of the last eight renewals of this. Resumed progress this season and has now won five of his last nine starts. He was third last time out at Ascot, ahead of Aaddeey, but with conditions more in his favour. He’s consistent so being nudged up 1lb for his recent place isn’t a concern, it’s just a question of how much improvement does he have left in him after twelve starts? He doesn’t have to lead but will surely be very close to the early gallop and the inclusion of several other front runners in this field could compromise his chance in this, although there is no reason why he can’t run well again.

Midnights Legacy

Took advantage of a race rather falling apart on his most recent run, although he was handicapped to win a race of that nature. He’s four from eight on turf on the flat and has won two out of three here at Haydock, seeming not to stay on his only defeat here when tackling 14f. He’s the sort to continue running well but the winning distance of his last race, which hasn’t worked out, means he’s gone up 8lbs and others now look better handicapped in this.

My Frankel

Unbeaten in two all weather starts but only one from four on turf. He does have some good turf form to his name though. He beat the subsequently 87 rated Naswaary by 1.5 lengths in a Leicester maiden off a long absence and even ran okay in Palace Pier’s Sandown maiden over a trip that would have been far too short.

The key to My Frankel seems to be a fast surface and he hasn’t had that on his last two turf runs which have resulted in distances beaten of 36 lengths and 28 lengths. The ground is unlikely to be rattling quick here so you’d have to have some reservations but he’s capable of running well if transferring his all weather or fast turf form to this contest, for all stall 15 is a concern.

Dark Jedi

Improved by a stone last season after transferring from Charles Hills to Tim Easterby. His wins came at 9f and 10f but he was runner up to Euchen Glen in the Old Borough Cup here on soft ground so there are no question marks at all over stamina. That winner has since rated a stone higher whereas Dark Jedi is only rated 2lbs here so it’s difficult to make a case for him being badly handicapped, especially as he’s completely unexposed at 12f+.

He didn’t make his seasonal debut until a week ago and would need to improve on that run but it’s entirely possible that will have brought him on, with this potentially the plan all season. Even if he has come on for that he appeals more as a place bet than a win bet.

Pablo Escobarr

Highly tried throughout his career and successful at both listed and Group 3 level. He’s only rated 3lbs lower than his highest official rating which probably doesn’t leave him well handicapped, although he did place in a Meydan handicap off a 1lb higher mark on good ground over this distance, but was sent off favourite for that race so still ran slightly below expectations. Hasn’t been at his best on his two runs this season, finding only a little improvement in a first time visor last time out. That headgear is retained and a more truly run race here might suit him better but this requires a career best when he’s not running within a good few pounds of his best form this season.

Win O Clock

Disappointing at Ascot last time out given the ground had seemingly come in his favour, dropping away in the straight. He’s only been dropped 1lb for that run and whilst he is fairly handicapped when there is plenty of juice in the ground, he is almost certainly badly handicapped on fast ground. He’ll probably be well placed in this from stall 4 but that’s the biggest positive and unless they receive lots of rain on Saturday he’s very opposable.

Soto Sizzler

Runner up to Midnights Legacy last time out at Epsom, a course where he tends to run his best races. This looks a much stronger race and although the return to slightly better ground should suit, he’d only appeal against this field if the race was being run at Epsom. On this more traditional course he looks to have place prospects at best.

Brilliant Light

Still relatively lightly raced and has the run style to overcome stall 14. He’s run at trips between 10f and 14f this year, probably best suited by this distance on the balance of his form. He’s dropped 5lbs from his last two runs which still leaves him 6lbs above the rating of 93, off which he was 3rd in Meydan in February. That run was the last time he raced without headgear, which is left off here, and Marco Ghiani’s soon to be dispensed with 3lbs claim is very useful. The odds of around 18/1 probably underestimate his chances but his most recent runs have been disappointing.

Pirate King

Big improver on the all weather over the winter, winning four of his seven races. Hasn’t run since January but was due to run at Royal Ascot until the ground turned soft so shouldn’t be short of work. On his latest run he beat Midnights Legacy who reopposes here on 7lb worse terms so he’s well handicapped and overpriced on that form.

He has only raced on artificial surfaces in ten runs for Charlie Fellowes so it’s difficult to figure out if his improvement has been due to joining that stable or switching to the all weather. He didn’t look well handicapped on turf for Harry Dunlop off much lower marks but didn’t immediately improve when switched to the all weather for Fellowes. In fact his Kempton form doesn’t give him much hope here, all his improvement came at Lingfield. That has to be a concern here off a career high mark.

Scarlet Dragon

Made his move and hit the front far too early when looking for a repeat win of the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot, ending up well beaten in the end. He’s now 3lbs higher than his 2020 Ascot success but he took advantage of some below par performances that day and given his best performances have generally come with plenty of cut in the ground under Hollie Doyle he has work to do here.

Alounak

Formerly smart but has not matched any of his old form since joining Andrew Balding at the start of last season. In fact he’s struggled to beat any runners home in the majority of his races but he has run well on soft ground at the last two Royal meetings at Ascot. He was runner up in the Hardwicke last season and wasn’t beaten too far in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes this year. This isn’t soft ground or Ascot though and he’s only dropped 2lbs which gives him ground to make up on the likes of Zabeel Champion and Aaddeey.

The Trader

Not the most consistent but capable on his day. He was well beaten last time out behind Midnights Legacy at Epsom and seemed in the grip of the handicapper on his previous run. Decent ground here will suit but even if he bounces back to his absolute best this is much deeper than anything he’s been competitive in before.

Lost Eden

He's been potentially overlooked slightly in the market here given he was disputing favouritism in the early betting for the handicap won by Midnights Legacy at Epsom. He was withdrawn from that race because the ground turned soft and that was also the reason he became a non runner at Ascot. Better ground here should therefore suit but he doesn’t look particularly well handicapped on what he's shown to date. He won a weak all weather novice in April by 9 lengths which gave the handicapper the unenviable task of giving him a rating. The runner up in that race was a now 66 rated maiden and Lost Eden, although remaining with scope to improve, has done little to suggest he can win this off 96.

The Verdict

There aren’t many at big prices here that make much appeal. Lost Eden is probably overpriced based on the ‘could be anything’ factor but his form doesn’t really back up his mark. Brilliant Light could run well at a price but he’s very risky based on his Royal Ascot reappearance. Dark Jedi could improve on his seasonal reappearance but the bookies have taken no chances with his price given he’s much more likely to run into a place than win.

Longsider is the one with loads of potential. Just a week ago though he was deemed to not be ready enough for the Northumberland Plate and he’s clearly been difficult to train so he is opposable at the price, especially from his car park draw.

Grand Bazaar has good enough form to win this but still has to prove himself in bigger fields and he shouldn’t get an easy lead here.

The best bet in this contest comes down to how much significance you put into the draw data. Zabeel Champion is a pretty safe bet from stall 7. If they don’t go a crazy pace he should be well enough placed, the pace data suggests the lead is the best place here and prominent racers have often done well in this particular race. He ran a rock solid race at Ascot, proving he is as good as ever if not miles ahead of his mark anymore. He's very closely matched with Grand Bazaar on their Newmarket form but Grand Bazaar may be too reliant on small fields.

At a similar sort of price to Zabeel Champion, AADDEEY seems the one capable of rating much higher. He’s still very lightly raced and has only been given one chance at this distance on decent ground and he beat a subsequent winner with limitless ease on that occasion. He’s much higher in the weights here but ran well on the wrong ground last time in a good race. It seems the only things that can probably keep him out of the frame here are a draw bias and a pace bias. He can race in mid division and there should be a good early gallop so the pace bias isn’t too much of a concern, it’s just the draw. With a lower draw he’d rate a confident bet but stall 13 isn’t so terrible that it can rule him out here. Mark Crehan even takes off a useful 3lbs, he’s two from four for the stable when riding single figure priced runners.

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.