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Gulliver makes York travels well worth it again

David O’Meara’s Gulliver won a second successive Coral Sprint Trophy when defending his crown in decisive fashion at York.

The six-year-old gelding defied odds of 20-1 to run a commanding race under Martin Harley, striking from the middle of the field with a furlong left to travel and soon gaining a comfortable lead over the field of 21.

David Loughnane’s 9-2 favourite Tranchee strove to close the gap but could not catch last year’s victor, with Mark Johnston’s 28-1 shot Desert Safari finishing third.

“He’s a wonderful horse,” O’Meara said of Gulliver, who carried 9st 7lb to victory – from a 2lb higher mark than last season.

“He won this race last year and he was a couple of pounds higher this year so we weren’t sure if he was maybe a few pounds too high to win it again, but he’s a fantastic horse and he seems to like it here.

“I didn’t think he liked this ground until he won this race last year, on this same ground. Ever since then we’ve known he goes on anything.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with him next, we’ll see, he might go abroad through the winter.”

Mick Channon’s Nastase was a game winner of the Listed coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes, triumphing at odds of 25-1 under David Probert.

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The two-year-old son of Sixties Icon came home a neck ahead of William Haggas’ Light Refrain, who ran loose to the start after parting company with jockey Danny Tudhope.

Stepping back up to a favourable trip of six furlongs, the colt remained on the far side of the track and eventually closed in on the runner-up and Simon and Ed Crisford’s 15-2 chance Legal Attack.

A photo finish had to determine the outcome of the one-mile Coral Racing Super Series Nursery Handicap, with Roger Fell’s The Flying Ginger prevailing by a head from Ralph Beckett’s Galah.

A 25-1 chance, The Flying Ginger put aside a previous poor effort on soft ground to claim a second career win under Ben Curtis.

“He’s well ahead,” said Curtis of Fell’s approach to training juveniles.

“He lets them learn their trade and by the third run they know what they’re doing. He lets them progress that way.”

Fell observed that the filly had strengthened and improved since her last run at Newmarket, when she finished runner-up to Mystery Angel.

“She’s come on,” he said.

“Since that run on the Cambridgeshire card, when the winner won it quite easily, she’s really come on.

“She’s good, she’s very good. Cieren Fallon (who rode her at Newmarket) said she’d definitely get black type.”

Popular hurdler The Jam Man collected a first victory on the Flat when taking the Coral Backing Prostrate Cancer UK Handicap Stakes.

The Ronan McNally-trained seven-year-old, who has won nine races over both hurdles and fences, is more frequently seen at jumps tracks and contested the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Well able to stay the two-mile trip and cope with the soft ground, the 4-5 favourite reeled in leader Solo Saxophone to emerge victorious under Franny Norton after a photo finish.

“I knew I had it,” Norton said of the outcome.

“It was a slog for me, when I saw Paul (Mulrennan, on Solo Saxophone), I knew I had a bit to do. But I only had eight stone two and I was on a jumper so it was about just getting to the line.

“I always knew I’d get there but I did think I was in a little bit of trouble.”

The Jam Man is a yard favourite for McNally, sharing a special bond with his schoolboy work rider – the Armagh-based trainer’s son, Kian ‘Tubbs’ McNally.

Elswhere on the card, Ilaraab justified his status as 3-1 favourite in the Coral Beaten By A Length Free Bet Handicap, his fifth consecutive victory having been beaten only once when seventh of 10 on his racecourse debut in June.

The three-year-old battled through from mid-division to take up the lead inside the final furlong, holding off runner-up Asheq to triumph by three-quarters of a length.

Dakota Gold shines once again at York

Dakota Gold landed the first Group Three race of his career with a pillar-to-post success in the rearranged Coral Bengough Stakes at York.

Saved over from last weekend’s waterlogged Ascot card, Michael Dods’ consistent sprinter never saw another rival in registering a fifth win on the Knavesmire.

While the six-year-old has not been as prolific this year as last, when he won the Great St Wilfrid, two big handicaps and a Listed race at York as well as a Listed race at Ascot, he is back in great form again now.

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Connor Beasley bounced him out of the stalls and he proved his versatility by seeing out the six-furlong trip in testing ground very stoutly.

James Fanshawe’s veteran The Tin Man had travelled noticeably strongly throughout, but briefly had nowhere to go when Dakota Gold quickened and when he eventually got in the clear it was too late, with a length and three-quarters the winning margin for the 13-8 favourite.

“It was a plus when Stormy Girl came out (non runner), that was the only front-runner I could see in the race. It meant that he could dictate, get a breather and go from there,” said Dods.

“Connor gave him a good ride and he just loves it here, I couldn’t tell you why. It’s a good flat track, the best track in the country. He’s never run a bad race here and Connor gets on well with him.

“It’s just played into our hands a bit, we had him in the two races at Ascot, went for the Rous (which he won last year) and it was abandoned. As soon as they moved the Group Three race to here then it was the obvious race to go for, especially with the conditions the way they are.”

There is also a chance Dakota Gold could be back out as quickly as Wednesday in the Rous Stakes, which will now be at Nottingham.

“I’m not ruling it out (running again), I’ll monitor it. There’s only the Listed race at Doncaster at the end of the season, coming into November, I think there’s a possibility we could go for next Wednesday and then call it a day for this season,” said Dods.

Logician loses unbeaten record as Euchen Glen strikes at York

Euchen Glen caused a major surprise in the rearranged Betsafe Cumberland Lodge Stakes, with Logician losing his unbeaten record in finishing a disappointing last of four at York.

Back at the scene of his finest hour, Euchen Glen had won the John Smith’s Cup on the Knavesmire in 2018.

Injury then kept him off the track for over 700 days, but he had claimed victory in a valuable contest at Haydock last month.

Even so, he was sent off at 18-1 against last year’s St Leger winner, who himself had overcome a year on the sidelines to win on his return at Doncaster.

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Logician was the 1-3 favourite for the Group Three transferred from Ascot’s waterlogged meeting last weekend, and Martin Harley seemed happy enough on John Gosden’s charge until passing the three-furlong marker.

Harley wanted to grab the rail on the previously-unbeaten Frankel colt, but was unable to do so before Paul Mulrennan and Euchen Glen, who were relentless in front.

Harley had a brief look down on Logician and ultimately allowed him to come home in his own time.

It was left to Desert Encounter to challenge Euchen Glen, but Jim Goldie’s favourite won by half a length.

Goldie said: “I would say that was a masterclass in riding. As Baldrick would say, we had a cunning plan and I can’t believe how well it went.

“We thought we’d try to bring the field across to the rail as it complicates things, it gives the jockeys a decision to make and it worked a treat.

“To take a scalp like that is great. Some thought it pie in the sky against a superstar, but Paul was up for it and so was I.

“The horse we beat is probably rated similar to us and it looks like the favourite hasn’t turned up.

“Our horse is a superstar and Paul gets a great tune out of him.”

He added: “He’s actually in the Balmoral over a mile on Champions Day. He’ll go on the ground so we’ll just see how he is. I don’t think there’s much else.”

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Logician’s owner, Khalid Abdullah, said: “The horse pulled up sound and obviously he’ll be checked out when he gets back.

“From the point of view that he is sound, that’s a bonus, but obviously there must be something to explain it.”

The Tin Man drops in class for Bengough challenge

Veteran sprinter The Tin Man has his sights lowered for the rescheduled Coral Bengough Stakes at York on Saturday.

It has been over two years since James Fanshawe’s stable stalwart claimed the third of his three wins at Group One level in the Sprint Cup at Haydock, adding to his previous wins in top-level company in the Qipco British Champions Sprint and the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot.

However, he has run some fine races in defeat since – most recently finishing sixth in his latest tilt at Sprint Cup glory – and drops to a Group Three for a race that was saved from last Saturday’s abandoned meeting at Ascot.

“He’s coming back from a Group One to a Group Three. He’s seems in really good form – the obvious question mark is the going, but he has handled soft ground before,” said Fanshawe.

“He’s been running really well this year. Before the Sprint Cup he was narrowly beaten in a Group Three (Hackwood Stakes) at Newbury and he is still enjoying it.

“We’ll see how he gets on this weekend and take it from there.”

The Tin Man’s seven rivals include David O’Meara’s Stewards’ Cup hero Summerghand, Kevin Ryan’s Brando and the Michael Dods-trained Dakota Gold, who has won four times from seven appearances at York and finished second on two other occasions.

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Dods said: “He was actually meant to run in the Rous Stakes at Ascot last weekend, but obviously that meeting was called off and when they switched the Bengough to York, we thought it made sense to run him.

“He seems in good form. It’s a very competitive race, but hopefully he’ll run well.”

Fresh from saddling an across-the-card four-timer at Sedgefield and Newcastle on Wednesday, Rebecca Menzies is looking forward to running Stormy Girl, who claimed a Listed prize at Pontefract in August.

“She’s a very good filly who will also have a big year next year as well, I hope,” said the County Durham-based trainer.

“She’s a big, strong filly who will definitely hold her own as a four-year-old.

“She’s already proved that she can be competitive in Group races and hopefully a Group Three is within reach.”

Brad The Brief (Tom Dascombe), Hareem Queen (Karl Burke) and Kurious (Henry Candy) complete the line-up.

Listed honours are up for grabs in the coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes.

Dods is represented by Blackrod, who steps up in class after a dominant display at Hamilton a few weeks ago.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Dods added.

“It’s a warm race and he has a bit to find on ratings, but he’s an improver and I don’t think he’ll disgrace himself.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s French Group Three runner-up Legal Attack, Richard Fahey’s pair of Internationaldream and Regional and the Queen’s Light Refrain, trained by William Haggas, also feature.

The most valuable race on the final day of the season on the Knavesmire is the £75,000 Coral Sprint Trophy.

The weights are headed by Mr Lupton and Kynren, third and fifth respectively in the Ayr Gold Cup three weeks ago.

Further down the field is Kevin Ryan’s Magical Spirit, who received a hefty rise for a runaway victory in the Ayr Silver Cup.

Cosmo Charlton, racing manager for Magical Spirit’s owners Hambleton Racing, said: “He seems in great form and Kevin thought it was worth giving him another run in handicap company for some good prize-money.

“It’s a very competitive race and he’s gone up 12lb for winning at Ayr, so it won’t be easy, but I think the track should suit him as you generally need to be on the pace at York and he certainly has plenty of boot.

“Kevin thinks he could be a Pattern-race performer next year, so hopefully he’ll run another big race this weekend.”

Logician takes up Cumberland Lodge mantle once more

Logician has just the three rivals as he bids to extend his 100 per cent to seven in the rescheduled Betsafe Cumberland Lodge Stakes at York on Friday.

Last year’s St Leger hero made a belated return to action back at Doncaster last month with a facile success over Mythical Magic, in what turned it to be a match.

It may have been little more than a piece of work, but it did show he was back in business after recovering from a life-threatening illness during the winter.

Martin Harley takes over from Martin Harley on Logician at York
Martin Harley takes over from Martin Harley on Logician at York (David Davies/PA)

The John Gosden-trained four-year-old has more to do in this Group Three over a mile and a half, although he would have faced a stiffer task had Ascot not been abandoned due to waterlogging last weekend.

Martin Harley rides the grey for the first time as his regular partner Frankie Dettori is not in action until Saturday following his trip to France to ride Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

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Euchen Glen has come back as good as ever after being sidelined through injury for nearly two years.

Winner of the John Smith’s Cup at York in 2018 before his enforced absence, the seven-year-old lifted the Old Borough Cup at Haydock last month and was a creditable fourth to Addeybb in the Doonside Cup at Ayr after setting the pace.

“He’s doing fine. It’s a big ask to beat Mr Gosden’s horse, but he’s in good form so we’re giving it a go,” said Goldie.

“We’ll wait and see if Ascot could have been better than York or not and make a judgement after it.

“He should be a player.”

Oliver Cole reports Highland Chief to be in fine form
Oliver Cole reports Highland Chief to be in fine form (John Walton/PA)

Connections of Highland Chief expect the Royal Ascot winner to give Logician a run for his money.

The son of Gleneagles ran a fine race over this course and distance in the Dante Stakes in August when second to Pyledriver.

He been has highly-tried this season, running in the Investec Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris.

“Highland Chief is in great form. I think he’ll love the ground. It will be better for him up there,” said Oliver Cole, who trains the colt with his father, Paul.

“I think he’ll run a very big race.

“Obviously we’ve got to take on John Gosden’s horse, who is very good, but hopefully he’ll give him a race.”

David Simcock’s eight-year-old stalwart Desert Encounter completes the quartet.

Logician set to head to York for rescheduled Cumberland Lodge

Logician has been confirmed an intended runner in the rescheduled Betsafe Cumberland Lodge Stakes at York on Friday.

Last year’s St Leger hero has missed much of the current campaign after suffering a life-threatening illness last winter, but made a foot-perfect comeback when beating a solitary rival on his return to action last month.

Connections had been looking forward to running in the Group Three Cumberland Lodge at Ascot last Saturday, before the meeting was abandoned due to a waterlogged track.

Trainer John Gosden subsequently raised the St Simon Stakes at Newbury as a possible alternative, while he also holds entries in the Qipco Champion Stakes and the Long Distance Cup on Saturday week.

However, with the British Horseracing Authority acting quickly to save the Cumberland Lodge, Logician is set to return to the Knavesmire, where he won the Great Voltigeur Stakes in August of last year.

“I hope he’ll be going to York,” confirmed Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah.

“We obviously wanted to run at Ascot and now the race has been rescheduled, that remains the plan.

“He’s in good form.”

Logician is one of seven contenders for the Cumberland Lodge after the race was reopened for entries.

Desert Encounter, Highland Chief, Euchen Glen and Litigator were also declared to run at Ascot, and are again potential rivals to Gosden’s unbeaten son of Frankel.

In addition, Communique and Loxley are in the mix.

The Cumberland Lodge was one of four races due to be run at Ascot which have been rescheduled by the BHA, with the Bengough Stakes at York on Saturday, the October Stakes moved to Goodwood on October 11 and the Rous Stakes switched to Nottingham on October 14.

A statement from the ruling body read: “Although it is not usual procedure to reschedule Group Three and Listed races, it was felt that with the abandonment coming late in an already disrupted season, it was in the best interests of all concerned to reschedule these opportunities.”

Favorite Moon ruled out of Old Rowley Cup

Favorite Moon will miss Friday’s bet365 Old Rowley Cup Handicap at Newmarket and run at York instead.

William Haggas’ three-year-old won by over eight lengths last time out at Haydock, forcing an 8lb rise from the handicapper.

As low as 6-1 in places for the valuable contest at Headquarters, he will instead run in the Betsafe Handicap over a mile and three-quarters on the Knavesmire on the same afternoon.

“He goes to York,” said Haggas.

“I thought the Old Rowley Cup looked a very strong race.

“It’s a race I’ve had no luck in at all, so it hasn’t been my favourite.

“It’s near enough a Group race, it’s very competitive, so we’ll go to York with him instead.”

York Ebor Stats: Draw, Pace and Trainer Profiles

It's York's Ebor meeting next week, with its smattering of Group 1 features as well as the first ever £1,000,000 handicap in British flat racing, attached naturally enough to the race which gives its name to the meeting (and which in turn was derived from the name, Eboracum, the Romans gave to a fort which resided on the site of what is now the town of York).

In view of four heady days on the Knavesmire, with what general information should punters at York arm themselves? This article, revised since last year's meeting, should help.

York Racecourse Configuration

The track at York features a six furlong straight down which races at up to that distance are run. There is a dogleg start from a chute for seven furlong races, and a pretty tight bend into the home straight for races longer than that. You can find more York racecourse insights on our dedicated York course info page.

 

York Draw Information

So what impact, if any, does the shape of the racetrack - and indeed drainage - have on draw positions? The weather is set fair for the week and the going is currently good to firm, good in places - the clerk has stated that he will water to ensure broadly that ground. Using geegeez.co.uk's Draw Analyzer tool, offers the following insights:

Five furlong draw at York

Looking only at bigger field handicaps on good to soft or quicker, we can see that there is a slight bias towards lower drawn horses. It is important, however, to check for an even spread of pace across the track: if high numbers have the most early dash, that could be enough to overcome any implied bias in the data.

 

Six furlong draw at York

Over the longest piste on the straight course, low again seem just about to have the best of it, particularly when reviewing the place data: this reveals a gradation from low (best) to high (worst). There is nothing insurmountable in these straight data but, all other things being equal, lower numbers may shade it.

 

Seven furlong draw at York

On the dogleg, there is a small advantage to be drawn middle to high. Looking at the constitution of the track, that makes sense as such runners can cut the corner of the dogleg, especially if breaking alertly. Again, though, it probably won't make the difference between a horse winning and losing, it's just a mild negative for those drawn low.

1m/ 1m1f draw at York

The mile and nine furlong trips are the first we've considered which take in that sharp bend quite soon after the start of races; that can make life challenging for those trapped wide. As a jockey, do you use up petrol trying to get handy, or take back and ride for luck? This challenge is borne out in the data, which shows those on the outside winning far less often - and placing less often - than those inside (low).

This time I've illustrated using the full draw chart table as well as a chart showing IV3, a unique geegeez perspective of draw based on the average Impact Value* of a stall and its immediate neighbours.

*Impact Value is the name given to an index created from the number of winners having a certain characteristic compared with the number of runners having that same characteristic. In this example, we are looking at the exactly 1000 runners to race in 8/9f 12-runner-plus York handicaps since 2009 (good to firm through to good to soft) which contested the 61 races in that sample.

So, for instance, we can see that the number of stall 1 winners was five, and the number of stall 1 runners was 61.

Our calculation is:

(number of stall 1 wins / number of stall 1 runs) divided by (all wins in the sample / all runs in the sample)

Numerically that's

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(5 / 61)    /    (61 / 1000)

which equals

0.0819672131 / 0.061

which equals 1.34 (see the IV column, second from the right)

The IV3 for stall 4, for instance, is the mean average of the IV of stalls 3, 4, and 5. That is, (2.96 + 1.88 + 1.88) / 3 = 2.24

Of course, you absolutely do not need to understand how it is calculated to know that it is useful in probability terms. Not necessarily in profitability terms, which is a different fish entirely. (We use A/E - Actual vs Expected - more of which another day, or here).

All you need to know is that 1.00 is 'par', 'standard', 'normal' and/or otherwise unremarkable. The further away from 1.00 you get the better or worse such horses have fared, bigger numbers being better.

Management summary: numbers greater than 1.00, especially on bigger sample sizes, imply a greater probability of success.

Hopefully that makes sense - don't get bogged down in the method, but do take note of the meaning.

Draw at longer trips at York

There is no noteworthy draw advantage over longer distances at York.

 

**

York Pace Information

So that's draw, but what of pace? Are particular run styles favoured on this expansive track with its near five furlong home straight?

As with most courses, the front is the place to be in sprint handicaps: front runners at York in big field 5f or 6f handicaps win around two-and-a-quarter times as often as random, and are very profitable to back blindly. See the image below, taken from Gold's Pace Analyzer.

Of course, the problem is that we don't know which horse will lead until the race is underway. However, we can often project that fairly accurately based on historical run styles. Naturally, Geegeez Gold will inform you of what you need to know with a couple of mouse clicks.

There is no discernible pace bias at seven furlongs in big field handicaps, though when the going is good to firm those on the speed have a better chance of seeing it through.

Over a mile, it doesn't pay to be too far back as this somewhat linear chart attests. Although the fewest number of races were won from the front, the number to attempt that feat was commensurately small: a win strike rate of 12% compares favourably with the other run style cohorts. We can see from the table below (Place% column) that these data are backed up by those horses to make the frame.

 

There are no nine furlong races at York's Dante meeting, and at ten furlongs there is no discernible pace bias. That said, those trying to make all are 2 from 78 (-40 points, IV 0.4).

And at a mile and a half, it pays to be played later: those which led or raced prominently in big field twelve-furlong handicaps are a collective 21-374 (5.6% strike rate) for a starting price loss of £205.75.

**

Top York Handicap Trainers in August (Ebor meeting)

You may well have seen lists of trainers to follow elsewhere, and fair play to the publishers. Here I want to look at trainer performance overall, and by race type.

York Ebor Meeting: Overall Trainers, 25+ runners, 2014-2018

There are some interest headlines here. First, Mark Johnston runs a lot here but wins with very few. The 21% place rate is way down on this yard's overall rate, normally hitting the frame at around 36%.

Next, Aidan O'Brien. Tony Keenan established chapter and verse on the Ballydoyle Ebor efforts in this excellent post, and it can be seen from the below that York's meeting is not a hugely successful one for the Coolmore head handler: five wins from 56 runners, 0.65 A/E is moderate for this preeminent operation.

Richard Fahey, Brian Ellison, and Richard Hannon are others about whom to be apprehensive in the general context, though further digging below may shine a more favourable light on some sections of their entry.

On a more positive front, William Haggas, famously a Yorkshireman exiled in Newmarket, relishes the opportunity to plunder pots at his home racetrack; and he does so regularly. His 11 winners in the last five years is four better than the next best haul, with Haggas even managing to chisel out a profit and a positive A/E for followers.

And it's been a good meeting for the Godolphin blue, especially the Charlie Appleby team, which has recorded positive punting figures from seven victories. A 24% hit rate is exceptional given the depth of competition at this fixture.

Andrew Balding and Charlie Hills are both solid operators with a mildly positive wagering expectation.

York Ebor Meeting: Handicap Trainers, 15+ runners, 2014-2018

Specifically in handicaps, there is little of value to be gleaned from this table, except perhaps that the place records of Richard Fahey, Tim Easterby and notably William Haggas - whose overall record is so strong - suggest that caution is advised.

Ebor meeting handicaps are notoriously difficult to win and, as such, the hat-tricks notched by Messrs. Ryan, Balding and Appleby (C) are meritorious. In each case the place rate backs up the higher profile statistic.

 

York Ebor Meeting: Pattern (Listed or better) Race Trainer performance, 10+ runners, 2014-2018

In the good races at the Ebor meeting, we see the emergence of Charlie Appleby as a main man. Just nine runners in such races have yielded three winners, and a further placed effort. Although those numbers are unlikely to be completely lost on the market, there may remain some punting nutrition in his Pattern entries.

William Haggas has claimed two wins from ten runs, with four more placed: excellent figures and testament to the 'target' nature of this meeting for his better horses. Note that Haggas has saddled a 20/1 winner and a 14/1 second in that small group.

Nobody else has managed more than two winners.

On the downside, Mark Johnston's zero from 11 is poor, as is an 18% place rate. I'd be against them, on balance. Aidan O'Brien has an overall win rate in UK Pattern races of 15.78% (16th August 2014 to present), which makes his 5.56% Ebor Festival hit rate highly unsatisfactory. Indeed, just three places from 18 runners in this context in the last five years suggests the meeting is not a material consideration for Coolmore.

 

York Ebor Meeting: Class 2 or lower Non-Handicap Trainer performance, selected, 2013-2017

Here we are essentially talking about maiden and/or novice races, and we can see that man Haggas sits top of the tree. Richard Hannon's otherwise middling record at the meeting is solid if not bankable in this race type.

Local lads Ryan and Fahey look to be largely entertaining owners at their marquee home fixture and their entries can be pretty much overlooked in this context, though the latter did hit his mark with 33/1 Red Balloons last year - which paid for a lot of losers!

 

Ebor Trainer Summary

Overall, one does have to be careful with small sample sizes and current trainer form. But, accounting for those, the main trainer takeaways from the last five Ebor meetings are:

- Beware Johnston, Fahey, Ryan and O'Meara. They've collectively won 19 of the 127 races at this fixture since 2014, having saddled 353 of the 1660 runners. An Impact Value of 0.70 compares with their overall five year IV of 1.23 across more than 24,000 runners. It's likely they'll win four or five of the 25 races, but they're also likely to send out around 70 runners most of whose prices will be more indicative of the 'better than peer group' global IV rather than the poorer local IV. That's a verbose way of saying they'll represent poor value overall.

- William Haggas is the man to follow in non-handicaps.

- Charlie Appleby runners should be given two looks without exception.

- Aidan O'Brien appears not to target the meeting, so his runners may make the market for anything else you fancy.