Day 1 was tough, as showcased by the win of 50/1 Arabian Queen in the 'race of the century'.
Gleneagles' absence and Golden Horn's under-performance, as well as a muddling pace which suited those on the speed, put paid to any chance of the contest matching the hype on a tricky afternoon for punters.
Those who followed yesterday's blog would have got off to a fine start as 33/1 advised (returned 20/1) Caspian Prince won the opener, with the other "poke in the murk", Silvanus, running a game third at 22/1 (having eased from 16's in the early betting - got to love Best Odds Guaranteed).
That was as good as it got. No bet in race two, Tashaar not good enough in race three, TGG beating Time Test but losing to Arabian Queen - as they all did - to sink the 'without' market bet (Criterion not good enough), a non-runner and a well beaten Noble Silk in race five, and Shawaahid closing on the frame but finishing fifth on the wrong side in the last.
If you backed Caspian Prince you'd have covered everything else, but it's nicer to get out in front on the last than to go up early and gradually spit it back, psychologically at least.
[Best not to say too much about the ride on Jinsha Lake...]
To Thursday, and we start with the...
1.55 DBS Premier Yearling Stakes (Class 2, 6f)
Twenty juveniles in a sales race. Here we go again...
In fairness, a reasonable number can probably be discounted, and it was the case on Wednesday that middle to low was a better place to be than high. The ground is a bit of an imponderable as I write (6pm Wednesday evening), and I'm assuming good to soft after some heavy showers forecast this evening.
I'll use the Geegeez Gold pace map to highlight a few things here, in lieu of a deep dive into the fledgling form of these lightly raced (mainly) improvers.
I've sorted the field by draw, low to high, as you can see from the green arrow on the left. And I've highlighted a bunch of things in various columns on the right. A couple of quick explanations:
LR/2LR/3LR/4LR is Last Run, 2nd Last Run, 3rd Last Run and 4th Last Run
Scores are 1-4 as follows:
4 - Led; with leader; pressed leader; etc
3 - Prominent; chased leader; etc
2 - Mid-division; midfield; in touch; etc
1 - Held up; in rear; etc
So 16 means a horse led in its last four races, and 4 means a horse was held up in its last four races.
Score is the sum of the last (up to) four runs.
Score% is the sum of the last (up to) four runs, divided by the total of all runners summed scores.
SR is the best speed rating the horse has achieved.
The first thing I'm looking for is an overall 'shape' to the race. It's tougher in a race like this where a) not all horses have run four times, and b) many/most of them don't yet have defined run styles.
Even so, we can draw some loose conclusions from which to work.
First, A Momentofmadness looks set to blaze a trail on the far side (low). Second, there is plenty of early dash sprinkled between traps six and twelve, and it is reasonable to expect at least a couple to push on in that group. It may even be fair to suggest this part of the track will be in front at half way based on the number who want to go forward.
Next, look at the high draws. The short priced favourite, Tasleet, is in 14, and will surely tuck in behind the middle draws. High could be a bit lacking in early pace.
Looking at the speed ratings, there is no outstanding figure, and plenty are evenly matched. Also note that Tasleet has yet to run a fast time. That doesn't mean he can't run a fast time, only that he hasn't yet. What he has done is finish second to Shalaa in a Group 2, something virtually none of these could dream of doing.
From this, I'm interested in the form profiles of the low to middle drawn horses that have already shown good speed. And Tasleet. My form book shortlist then is Delizia, Top Of The Bank, Encantar, Projection, Orvar. And Tasleet.
Looking at Instant Expert for clues, the obvious thing to note is the sea of grey.
That means a horse has yet to encounter the specific condition, e.g. going.
What we can say from the grid, based on place data rather than win data, is that Mr Lupton has achieved more in the context of this race than most. Specifically, he has been placed in two of his three Class 2 races (he was 3rd of 5 in the other); he was only beaten a length in second in a nursery at this track; and he's run well on one of his three six furlong spins (that close 3rd of 5 was in another).
Perhaps most notably, he was second in a big field sales race earlier this season, proving he can deal with the hustle and bustle. Looking at his form, we can see that all bar his last race have produced subsequent winners at a good clip. (Click the image to view full size).
I've highlighted the Haydock run in particular because the filly he beat there won the nursery by five lengths on the opening day of the Ebor meeting. Indeed, since finishing second to Mr Lupton, Mayfair Lady has won two races by an aggregate of twelve lengths!
Trainer Richard Fahey has had seven of his 18 runners in the race finish in the first five, including smart winner Wootton Bassett in 2010; so at 16/1 this lad would be as interesting as any, without getting especially carried away, especially with unanswered questions about the ground.
Others whose chance is suggested from the above grid are Lathom, who won the big field sales race in which Mr Lupton was second; and Ferryover, who has to go faster, but after just two starts can do just that. He's already shown he handles a bit of cut in the ground when dead heating over six panels on good to soft.
Orvar is quirky but better treated than most at the weights, and ran a close second on soft last time, having run well behind Shalaa previously; while Tasleet has the better piece of Shalaa form and could well outclass this field, but is opposable at a price below 2/1.
Lathom 11/1 and Mr Lupton 20/1 are sporting options against the favourite, with the images above more to illustrate some Gold tools than to suggest there is a cracking bet in the race. Skybet offer money back as a free bet if your pick is second or third in this race, and they're joint top price about both at time of writing.
2.30 Lowther Stakes (Group 2, 6f)
An interesting little race, and the usual convergence of more established Group form and fillies stepping up from maiden wins makes for a searching betting examination.
I've always liked Besharah. More exposed than most of these, she won well on soft ground over this trip last time despite a hard core US pedigree. This will be her trip and, though there may be better unexposed young lasses in opposition, she sets a very solid mark. She's tempting at 9/2.
The market is headed by the unbeaten-in-one Lumiere. By Shamardal, out of a mare who achieved a similar wide margin début win as a juvenile, she's well bred; and a six length demolition on that first start caught the eye. That was on good to firm, and the six subsequent runs from the race have yielded just a single placing. The time was unexciting too, so while she's an obvious improver, she is also avoidable at 6/4.
Easton Angel looked smart when hacking up in soft ground on her first start but has maybe not quite gone on from there. Being by Dark Angel, it is possible she needs some juice in the lawn and that will be the case for the first time since the maiden stroll. However, it is a fair hop from a Musselburgh maiden to a York Group 2. She's popular this evening as I write, and it is easy enough to see why.
A number of others with credible claims, including Ashadihan, who may have improved markedly since last seen two months ago; and five length winner of her sole start, Quiet Reflection, by the prominent second season sire, Showcasing.
From a placepot perspective, I think Besharah and Easton Angel should 'medal' between them, and that might be as close as I get to a bet in the race.
3.05 Handicap (Class 2, 1m)
Another score of classy beasts line up for this mile handicap where finding a winner ought to pay for plenty of losers.
You're Fired has a heck of a lot going for him and is as near to an 'obvious' selection in a race like this as you'll get. Second and third in big field handicaps over this course and distance, and in at least this grade, in his last three runs, the niggle is that he's clambered up the ratings as a consequence.
Still, he's only five pounds higher than when second in a Listed track and trip weight-for-ability heat, and as a four year old is likely still improving. He also has plenty of good form on soft and good to soft ground. I'm a bit sick to see he was 14/1 earlier today (Wednesday), which makes it hard to entertain the 8/1 currently available. Mercifully, Pricewise has nominated him, which means if you're up early you might get 12/1 Thursday morning. I'll be trying to stick a couple of pounds on at that price.
Remarkably, David O'Meara has EIGHT runners in this, so he'll be expecting to challenge with at least one of them. That one could be Fort Bastion, for whom the services of Silvestre de Sousa have been employed. He's dangerous off this sort of mark, and ran pretty well at Ascot over a furlong shorter on soft ground last time. The 25/1 is attractive for a couple more quids.
Mange All has run up against some serious Group wolves in handicap sheep's clothing the last few times, and as a Haggas hoss, he's jobbed up again on the Knavesmire. Trouble is, he's a stone higher than his last win, and may just want an eighth further now. Saying that, the rain could play to his strengths: he'd certainly not be a shock winner, but nor is he the best handicapped animal in the field.
On past glories, that would be Penitent, another from the O'Meara phalanx, and a veteran for whom a soft ground mile meant a Group race pay day a couple of years ago. His last win was in a Group 3 in May last year, off 109 and, having been rated as high as 115, he's now pitching from 98. If a few flames still lick the belly of this nine-year-old having his 50th career start, 25/1 with five places might be worth a second glance.
Wide open, and I am unapologetic in taking three off the tee. I'll have any 12/1 I can steal about You're Fired in the morning, and will supplant that with a pair of the Ginger Wizard's octet, Fort Bastion and Penitent, at a pony (25/1) apiece.
3.40 Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1, 1m4f)
Eleven high class ladies go to post, nine of them from the Classic generation, for this mile and a half Group 1. Covert Love is a solid and understandable favourite, at around 3/1, after her rapid ascent to the head of her peer group was completed with a convincing win in the Irish Oaks.
She had Jack Naylor and Curvy in the place positions that day, but was most of two lengths too good for the pair. With as much - maybe more - scope as them to get better it is hard to envisage a form reversal unless she doesn't handle the ground. Her pedigree suggests she'll be fine on it and her trainer, Hugo Palmer, is bullish. She looks placepot banker material.
From a win perspective there are others to consider. The peerless Francois Doumen travels Sea Calisi over, his filly having won a Group 2 last time over this range, and a tad unlucky not to be unbeaten in her last three. It is a long way to come for a prep race, so in spite of M. Doumen suggesting this is the start of her autumn campaign and she will come on for it, she must be plenty ready.
A hold up horse, she'll be suited by Lustrous and Outstanding duking it out on the front from the outset. However, that may not transpire and with a lack of obvious pace, the first named might get a soft lead. At 33/1, a soft lead is probably her only hope of holding on into the frame but, of course, the same might have been said about Arabian Queen in the Juddmonte International...
A win for Lady Of Dubai would be depressing, but I have to desert her after an ostensibly poor effort at Goodwood last time. It might have been the rattling fast ground, or she may have been outclassed by some, granted, very smart ladies (3rd was Arabian Queen, fifth was Jazzi Top, Group 2 winner in France earlier this week).
Regular readers will know my contention that Crystal Zvezda's form doesn't stack up to what it seemed at the time, so she's another who can beat me (and probably will!). I respect Jim Bolger and his filly, Pleascach (almost learnt to spell it now), so while she gives the impression ten furlongs might be her trip, if the fractions are steady she'll get home well enough. 7/1 is unexciting, mind.
Looking at the race holistically, it could pay to race handily, and I think COVERT LOVE will do that. There was no fluke about her Irish Oaks win, which completed a highly progressive seasonal four-timer, and she's a fair bet at 3/1 to register a nap hand.
4.20 Galtres Stakes (Listed, 1m4f)
A Listed race for the same sex over the same distance as the preceding event, the Galtres is a sort of consolation Yorkshire Oaks. It has also been my placepot waterloo on numerous recent occasions.
Regally bred filly, Koora, is an interesting place to start. Out of the dam of Milan no less, and by Pivotal, she ought to handle any ease in the turf, and she ought to be talented. In two runs to date, she has run fast and won well the last day in a ten furlong Doncaster maiden. This extra quarter mile should be okay, though I'd not put my shirt on it.
In contrast to the Group 1, there does appear to be some pace to chase down, which will suit the late running - thus far - style of Koora, and she's tempting at 10/1. So much so that I've backed her, not with my shirt, but rather with just a couple of shirt buttons...
Tony Martin will have been glad of the rain for his strong-staying soft ground-loving mare, Dark Crusader. A winner of the Melrose Handicap at this meeting in 2013, she also won well at Galway last time. Martin had a Galway-York winner on day one, courtesy of Heartbreak City, and he could repeat the dose at around 9/1.
Favourite, Suffused, has a good chance too, with the step up in trip expected to suit. Softer ground is a relative unknown, with the benefit of the doubt given on the basis of a maiden win on good to soft and breeding which offers hope. 9/2 is all right but I'll take my chance with Koora at just better than twice those odds.
4.55 Fillies' Handicap (Class 2, 7f)
A day for the ladies is completed with a fifteen runner (note, only three places, sigh) fillies' handicap over the dogleg seven furlongs.
Although Dusky Queen has a lot of weight, she has earned it, and she'll have a plum setup - seven softish furlongs at a course she loves. Three wins and two further places from eight Knavesmire spins is impressive, with her seven course and distance outings yielding the striking string of 0113413. Winner of a Listed race two back, she drops in class here and, though she lugs all the weight, she looks set for another sterling effort. 14/1 is on the big side.
Of the two at the head of affairs, I prefer Mistrusting, a filly with upside and already decent form. Only beaten by two horses in four career starts - dual Group 3 winner Malabar and Stewards' Cup winner, Magical Memory - she may prove to be Group class herself. Off a mark of 99 and in receipt of the weight-for-age allowances from her elders, she is expected to run a big race for her in-form yard.
Roger Varian saddles the other short-priced filly, Spangled. Herself on the hat-trick and with just three runs so far to her name, the daughter of Starspangledbanner should improve again.
Marsh Hawk has to prove she's trained on but, if she has, the 18/1 could look massive about last year's Group 1 Fillies' Mile fourth, but she's overlooked on this occasion.
Mistrusting at 7/2 and 14/1 Dusky Queen each way make some appeal for small money.
It's another difficult card on the 'mire, and I hope the best bet will be Covert Love, a progressive filly with the beating of some of her closest market rivals. 35 minutes later, Koora can run better than a 10/1 shot in the Galtres Stakes.
For those who like to tilt at windmills (me me me!), Fort Bastion and Penitent may outrun 25/1 quotes, while You're Fired ought to run a big race.