The weather denied trainer Mark Walford the chance to improve upon an already very good record at Beverley today after a deluge rendered the track unfit for racing, so we've nothing to report upon from Wednesday, so let's move swiftly to Thursday, whose 'feature of the day' is full access to Instant Expert for ALL readers for ALL races, including, of course, the 'races of the day', which are scheduled to be...
- 1.30 Worcester
- 2.30 Ripon
- 7.25 Sandown
- 8.00 Sandown
- 8.30 Sandown
The first of the three Sandown races is the best of that bunch, but it's only a 5-runner contest, so I'm going to focus on the next one down. We've got what looks like a very open race on soft/heavy ground, it's a Class 3, 4yo+ handicap over a mile for £5,927. Here are the 10 runners set to tackle the 8.00 Sandown...
Form : History Writer, Gin Palace and Sword beach are the only runners winless in their last five starts. Semser & Epic Endeavour both won last time out.
Down in Class : History Writer, Mustarrid & Newbolt drop down one level
Up in Class : Epic Endeavour moves up one class, whilst both Semser & Sword Beach take two steps.
Course/Distance records : Ransom & Semser are the only two yet to win over this trip, whilst History Writer is the only previous course winner.
Days Since Last Run : Seven of the field have raced in the last month. Newbolt has raced this season, 29 days ago, but Semser & Epic Endeavour are returning from long layoffs of 174 and 220 days respectively.
Age : Seven of the field are aged 4 with Gin Palace (5), History Writer (6) and Mustarrid (7) the exceptions
Trainer/Jockey form : History Writer, Dashing Roger, Newbolt and ransom are the ones with positive icons on the card
SR ratings : With a rating of 94, Epic Endeavour is 6pts clear of both History Writer and Dashing Roger, but with three others rated 87, 83 & 82, I'm expecting a tight race.
History Writer carries top weight here, running off a mark of 93, just 2lbs higher than his last winning mark, also over this C&D. Just 2 wins and 5 places from 23 starts and no soft ground form doesn't scream "back me", but I think this six year old is better than results might suggest, as 15 of those 23 races have been at a higher grade than this. Both wins have come from 13 runs at this trip and he has 2 wins and 2 places from six visits to Sandown, where he has finished 1317 over C&D.
Dashing Roger hasn't got near the heights of his 2020 campaign just yet where he won 4 and placed in another 4 of his 12 starts, but has finished last of 7, last of 18 and 4th of 8 in three runs this term. That fourth place LTO was a step back towards some kind of form, but more is needed here and others look in better nick, although he does love the mud.
Mustarrid has a good record in soft/heavy conditions, but all of his best work has been at lower grades than today. He ran well enough at Haydock upon his return last month, but was disappointingly last home of 6 at Nottingham four days ago and although this is a drop in class, I don't see having much of a say in proceedings.
Epic Endeavour was definitely an improver last season, finishing 1211 in his last four outings, including a win at this grade, a win at this trip and two wins on soft ground and he'd be one of the main contenders here under normal circumstances. Two slight reservations from me are that he hasn't raced for 220 days and he's up 6lbs from his last run, but there's every possibility that he hasn't stopped progressing. Interesting sort.
Newbolt had a decent winter finishing 3212 in and around today's trip, albeit mainly at Class 4. The last of those runs saw him beaten by just three parts of a length at this class/trip on the A/W at Southwell before he took a 15-week break. He returned at Newbury in April for the Spring Cup (Class 2), but was out of his depth there and despite now being down in class and 3lbs lower, I'm not keen on his chances here.
Ransom is a bit of an unknown quantity in so much as he's lightly raced (just 3 starts) and has never run on turf. He's by Kingman and so you'd expect him to "get" turf and also this trip, but after winning two Class 5 contests over 7f, he was turned over by 3.75 lengths at this grade and now steps up in trip and the going might be his undoing.
Imperial Command has had a great winter/spring on the A/W up at Newcastle, winning three of five, but was only ninth in a tight race over 1m2f at this grade last time out. 9th of 11 might be a tad harsh after getting beaten by just 2.25 lengths over a mile and a quarter having weakened in the final furlong. The drop back in trip should help him here and he is 143 in 3 efforts on soft ground. I'm sure he'll give a good account of himself, but I like others more.
Gin Palace has a respectable 5 wins from 17 on the Flat, but has been beaten in his last six since winning over a mile at Class 2 off today's mark at Newmarket back in June of last year. Signs of a return to form were apparent when beaten by just 3.75 lengths at Ascot off 2lbs higher last time out and he could well make the frame here.
Semser is another unexposed type, who made the frame in all three runs for Roger Varian before being shipped off to France, where he only actually ran once for Francis-Henri Graffard, winning over 1m1f on the A/W at Lyon-la Soie. Now makes a yard debut for Gary Moore and whilst I don't know enough about him to put money down, I'll be watching interestedly.
Sword Beach completed the line-up and runs from a pound out of the handicap, he has won just one of 18 starts to date and is winless since landing a 1m Class 3 handicap on soft ground at York in October 2019, losing 11 races since. He's now on a career-low mark, some 10lbs lower than that win and although he should be competitive off 74, he's hard to like, even if he has run well on soft ground.
When the ground gets soft or "worse", form can often go out of the window and horses proven on the underfoot conditions are boosted. Feature of the Day Instant Expert is the quickest and easiest way of comparing a whole field under expected conditions from a win perspective...
...where Mustarrid and Epic Endeavour's soft ground wins are highlighted. We've no real Class 3 specialists and only History Writer has won here (2 x C&D wins). Dashing Roger and Gin Palace have the best one-mile records. Weight-wise, only Sword Beach is rated lower than the last win, with Imperial Command really up against it, as is Mustarrid.
I also realise that there aren't too many wins in that snapshot above, but we can also look at place form as follows...
...and whilst a swathe of green doesn't take us any closer to picking a winner, I use the place element of IE from a negative angle to weed out those who don't place, as if they don't place, they're not as likely to win!
*Note, Semser and Ransom have no relevant form.
When I look at the draw (I've used 8-12 runners on soft to heavy to give me some workable figures), I don't think there's a huge, discernible draw bias...
...but there's definitely a pace bias, where you don't want to be too far off the pace before the final half mile, which is a straight uphill run that will sap the energy of any runner needing to play catch up and in expected soft/heavy conditions here, sitting off the pace could well be game over from a long way out.
That lack of discernible draw bias allied to the need to be prominent is documented in the pace/draw heatmap, which would suggest low drawn runners seie the lead with mid-drawn runners tucking in behind them just ahead of those drawn high...
...and when we overlay the running styles of our horses and arrange the field in stall order, we can make an educated guess as to how they might break out in the early stages...
...where it looks like Epic Endeavour will be keen to get on with things, giving the likes of Dashing Roger and Newbolt something to set their sights on.
I did initially fancy the likes of Epic Endeavour, Gin Palace and History Writer, but I'm not sure about the latter pair now after seeing the pace stats and neither are in great form, so almost by default, Epic Endeavour is my pick today. I'm taking a gamble on his fitness, but he ended last season in great form, he looks progressive, loves the mud and has a great pace/draw make-up.
As for dangers to the selection, Dashing Roger looks like getting towed along by the leader and his own soft/heavy ground form is very good and if he can hold on, has a good chance of making the frame at a decent price. After that, I don't know enough about Ransom/Semser in these conditions, so I might just take a punt on Imperial Command. All the pace in the race is directly to his right and if he gets pulled along, his soft ground experience might just carry him into the frame at big odds!
So, it's a moderately confident shout about Epic Endeavour at 6/1 and two tentative E/W punts on Dashing Roger and Imperial Command at 12/1 and 20/1 respectively. The bookies don't agree with me, but surely they can't always be right?
Quick heads-up... I've got some family duties on Thursday and Friday, so it'll be late evening both days before this piece goes live, but don't worry, it WILL be here!