Posts

Alounak lifts Old Newton Cup at Haydock

Alounak bounced back to form to claim an impressive victory in the bet365 Old Newton Cup at Haydock.

A Group Three winner in Germany and runner-up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, Andrew Balding’s charge appeared dangerously well handicapped on the pick of his form.

However, he lined up for this prestigious handicap with plenty to prove, having never threatened to land a telling blow on either of his two previous outings this season at Ascot.

Sent off at 14-1 in the hands of three-times champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa, Alounak arrived on the scene travelling powerfully inside the final two furlongs before powering three lengths clear in the rain-softened ground.

Win O’Clock narrowly beat my Frankel to the runner-up spot.

“He’s done it very well out there,” said the winning rider.

“He travelled really well throughout the race. I was confident when I went back through his form as I knew he would go on the soft ground.

“I don’t think he’s at his best in this ground, but he’d run some good races in the past and he’d come down in the handicap, so it was all suitable for him.”

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.

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

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.