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Racing Insights, 9th October 2020

I wrote a couple of articles during lockdown focusing mainly on 2yr old debutants, but I had some other areas I was going to pursue and my opening glance at tomorrow's cards and reports jogged my memory about one of them. As many of you will already know, I firmly believe that trainers are creatures of habit operating under the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage.

I'm always interested in trainers who excel at a certain distance and not a quirky one like 6.5 furlongs etc and today I want to look at Roger Varian, because my notebook tells me to look out for his 1m4f handicappers and this is highlighted in tomorrow's Trainer Snippets...

Now this is a 2-year snapshot of all his handicappers racing at trips beyond 1m3.5f, so for the exact 1m4f numbers, we head over to the query tool, which shows that all Roger's runners over the last two years are...

whilst his 1m4f handicappers fare considerably better from a profit point of view at...

Of the above three quoted three flat-stayers, Zeeband will be disregarded for today's piece as he runs over 1m6f, leaving us with two 3 yr olds to look at : Shandoz and Progressive.

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The former will be ridden by David Egan in a tricky-looking Class 2, 17-runner contest on soft ground, whilst Daniel Muscutt rides the latter in a 12-runner Class 4 affair on Polytrack. To assess their respective chances, I first want to take you back to Roger's 10/49 record over the last two years in 1m4f handicaps, because they show...

  • 10 wins from 31 at SP odds of 10/3 to 11/1
  • 9 from 34 on the Flat (so better for Shandoz)
  • 8 from 35 from 3 yr olds (both)
  • 4 from 15 for David Egan (Shandoz)
  • 4 from 7 in 12-runner contests (Progressive)
  • 4 from 14 at Class 2, but only 1 from 9 at Class 4 (Shandoz again)

So, based on the stats, Shandoz would appear to be the most likely of the pair, but let's look closer at the cards/reports etc.

And Instant Expert...

...plus the pace/draw heat map...

All seem to put Shandoz in a very favoured light. He's by Golden Horn, whose 1m4f handicappers are 11 from 24 (45.83% SR) with six of the last nine all winning. The step up to these 1m4f handicaps has done Shandoz a world of good as he's 2 from 2 in this sphere, thanks to back to back successes at Ascot.

He signed off his 2yr old campaign with a win over 8.5f at Wolverhampton in late September 2019, before reappearing at Ascot 2 months ago having been rested for some 322 days, getting up late to land that Class 3 contest by a shorthead.

He then had four weeks rest before winning a Class 2 contest more comfortably on Good to Soft ground, beating the re-opposing Cepheus in the process. I'm not convinced the handicapper has him just yet despite a 7lb rise and I think there's more to come from him after another month's rest. Avoiding traffic/trouble will be the key to his fortunes here.

And onto Progressive at Kempton...

...which also shows that Roger Varian has a good record here at Kempton (21% SR since 2016) signified by the C5 icon and also the fact that he's one of my trainers to follow here on my angles. Instant Expert is somewhat less conclusive/helpful, unfortunately...

Pace/draw is also pretty inconclusive, as there's no real pattern here at Kempton in 1-12 runner contests over 1m4f for either running style or draw, other than you don't want a pace score of 1, as hold up horses do poorly here.

This 3yr old filly has only ran three times so far, but has shown some promise and improvement already. She won second time out on her A/W debut when bagging a 1m2f Class 5 contest up at Newcastle, where she battled well to get back up by a neck after being headed a furlong out.

Her latest effort was 24 days ago at Yarmouth, stepped up in both class and trip and she gave another account of herself when beaten by just a length into fourth place. The winner and runner-up (Colony Queen & Dusk) re-oppose today and our girl is now a pound better off with the winner and Dusk has had a jockey change.

Summary

Roger Varian's 1m4f handicappers have a great record and are always worth a second glance. Three year olds fare really well as do those priced around the 3/1 to 11/1 mark. Jockey David Egan has a better record than most, whilst those on the Flat considerably outperform A/W runners.

Two possibles for Friday and both have a real live chance of landing the spoils. Shandoz will need to stay handy but out of traffic/trouble or the 7lb excess will catch up with him if he has too much to do late on, whilst Progressive needs to continue to be progressive (sorry, couldn't resist!) and continue to improve. If she handles the new surface, I'd expect her to be there or thereabouts once again.