It's a humdinger of a three day meeting from York this week, headlined by the Dante Stakes, the pre-eminent Derby trial and ably supported by the Musidora Stakes this afternoon amongst a glittering array of competitive fare.
They jump off at 1.30 this afternoon with a 20 runner handicap and if you manage to get to the track/ bookies / TV remote five minutes late, you might be grateful as it must surely get easier than this!
Four-year-olds have had the best of it in recent years, but that does little to pare the contestants to a more manageable number. One thing that is notable is that the race is rarely won by an outsider. With that in mind, no more than a token selection is 'Sir' Henry Cecil's Diescentric. By Diesis, as you might have guessed, Diescentric had just the two starts at three, winning on the former of that pair in a Newmarket maidarden (the Wood Ditton) before failing to follow up over the same course and distance a month later.
He's been off the track for a year since, and with a nice middle draw here and a fair looking handicap mark, he's a hopeful pick in a race that's bound to throw up future winners. Dangers are everywhere so, unless you know something, this isn't a race to get serious about.
Onwards, and in the 2.00, a seven furlong 3yo handicap, Shropshire takes a step (or three) down in class having contested the Greenham behind a certain Frankel last time out(!)
Shropshire was beaten ten lengths by 'the beast', but he had some reasonable horses in behind (who may or may not have trained on), including Strong Suit, so top weight here looks right. He's not much of a price but, with the benefit of the run and a drop down in class, he looks the likely winner.
At the other end of the handicap, Common Touch may give him most to do. He won over six furlongs here on debut last season and, evidently held in reasonable regard (favourite on all three starts), he should be thereabouts.
The Musidora Stakes at 2.30 is an Oaks trial that threw up the winner as recently as 2009, when Sariska prevailed her before doubling up at Epsom. Arizona Jewel head the quintet bidding to replicate that feat, and her trainer, 'Sir' Henry Cecil, has a bombproof record in the race.
Successful on no fewer than nine occasions, including last year with Aviate, Cecil will be confident of win number ten here. Arizona Jewel is from the same family as Powerscourt among others and has a stout staying pedigree. She's already won over a mile and a quarter at Sandown in a maiden, and this significant step up in class reflects the regard in which she's held.
Her two biggest opponents, according to the betting at least, are Aidan O'Brien's Amazing Beauty and Richard Fahey's Barefoot Lady. The former has had two races, winning the second, both on the all weather surface at Dundalk. However, as a daughter of Galileo, she ought to have no problem with her first racecourse experience of turf, and she'll compete if she's good enough without excuses.
Barefoot Lady is the one with the form, having followed up a win in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes over seven furlongs, with a fine fifth in the 1000 Guineas over a mile. That race was run into a headwind and stayers prevailed, so it may be that Fahey's filly can defy her miler's pedigree (by Footstepsinthesand out of a Tenby mare) and last out this extra quarter mile.
She might get away with it off a presumably pedestrian pace here, but she's unlikely to stay the twelve furlongs of the Oaks. That, however, is irrelevant in the context of this afternoon's contest and she sets the benchmark on form.
Overall then, I'm looking to 'Sir' Henry's filly to cement her lofty position in the Oaks market. She's short enough at around 6/4, and is passable at that price, but connections will have her ready for this.
The 3.00 is a very warm Group 2 sprint over six furlongs. The first thing to say is that in the last decade, six of the ten winners have started at 14/1 or bigger, so ask for a big dollop of jam on your bread here. 🙂
My eye is immediately drawn to the bottom one, Ladies Are Forever, who receives oodles of weight in the form of the age and sex allowances. She may not be quite good enough to win here, but it wouldn't surprise me to see her run a fine race at odds around the 20/1 mark.
But the 'rag' I'm nailing my colours to (small stakes) is Willie Haggas' Triple Aspect. This chap has some smart form at the trip, loves the ground and might just be coming back to his best judged on a close up run behind JJ The Jet Plane in a super-hot sprint on the Meydan lawn.
Triple Aspect could run nowhere, but at 20/1 he's a value horse in a race where lots of them 'could run nowhere', so let's hope he runs somewhere!
Onto the 3.35 race, and this is a contest that is guaranteed to throw up a bucketload of subsequent winners. How can I be so confident? Because a number of the hot races I've been following from earlier in the season have contenders in this race. I have no idea who's going to win, and that doesn't really matter. What I can tell you is that I'll be tracking this race - and more importantly its runners - in their next three starts.
Another token pick only is Satwa Moon, who is a hopelessly unoriginal selection, but may still offer a squeak of value at 7/1. He's likely to be shorter at the off - most horses are with those miserly Yorkshire bookies - and Frankie will be steering here. Third off 84 in a ten furlong Newbury handicap, the extra two furlongs today are expecting to help and this chestnut horse son of Horse Chestnut (I kid you not) can go close.
The 4.10 race contains what my juvenile speed figures man considers to be the joint fastest two year to have run this season, as well as about the tenth fastest. If I tell you that Gatepost, likely favourite, is the tenth fastest on his figures, you may well be fascinated to know which horse is considered about a stone 'quicker'...
...step forward, Hamza. He showed blistering early pace for a debutant when spread-eagling the field in a Musselburgh maiden and, whilst obviously this is a different kettle of baby horses, he must improve for that run. The ones in behind that day that have run since have all won one of their next two starts (except 6th placed 50/1 shot Made In The Shade, who still finished 3rd next time at 25/1), and it is the contention of 'my man' that Racing Post's 2yo speed figures chap has made a pig's ear of his numbers.
Indeed, he believes that Topspeed anchored his ratings to an over-estimation of the Brocklesby form, which may or may not be the case. Either way, Hamza looks an each way bet of some substance at around the 6/1 mark.
Closing out a trappy card is the 4.45, a trappy 3yo handicap, run over the extended mile and a quarter. Quite a few of these are stretching out to ten furlongs for the first time and improvement can be expected from most of them. As such, projecting where the most improvement will appear is akin to jelly-nailing, so - again - demand some jam on your bread.
I'm going to do that for the, by now, customary small stakes on Mark Tompkins' Barwick, a son of Beat Hollow. He improved when stepped up in trip on his final start last year when beating all bar Captain Bertie over a mile at Chester, and will improve again for this extra quarter mile.
Tompkins' horses are going well, and he loves a winner on the Knavesmire, so Barwick is likely to be 'expected' (or at least, 'hoped for'!). As with all of the handicaps this afternoon - and the non-handicaps come to think of it - dangers abound and it would be careless to mention some at the risk of missing the winner in the unmentioned others.
Best bet of the day for me is Hamza, who should go close granted any improvement from his first start. And I'll be very interested in Barwick in the last. Finally, do make a note of the 3.35 race, from which I'm expecting a goodly number of subseqent winners to emerge.
More tomorrow... Good luck today... Leave a comment if you fancy anything yourself this arvo. 🙂