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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.

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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.