Varian holds the key to Cambridgeshire Conundrum

The first leg of the ‘Autumn Double’ takes place tomorrow at Newmarket, with 35 runners going to post.

The Cambridgeshire is run on the Rowley Mile and is a nine-furlong cavalry charge, with horses spread across the entirety of the track. The first three from last year return for another crack at the valuable handicap. Master The World was chinned on the line 12 months ago by Third Time Lucky, with Examiner a length further back. Fahey’s three-year-old was making it four wins for the age group in the past 10 renewals.

In fairness, wins are pretty evenly split between three, four, five and six-year-olds in recent times. You have to go back to 1992 for the last seven-year-old success. Experience in handicaps has proved a key factor in performing well in the Cambridgeshire. Though last year’s winner was only three, he had already competed in a handful of handicaps prior to winning here, including a 16 runner event at Goodwood.

The amount of weight allocated to a horse is also key to winning this. In the past 20 years, only six have carried more than nine stone to victory. Educate managed to haul 9-9 and still win in 2014, but he is very much an exception to the rule.

Quite a number of horses have managed to win the race twice, with Bronze Angel the latest in 2012 and 2014. Several have won back to back, though Prince de Galles was the last in 1969 and 1970. No horse has yet won the race three times, which doesn’t bode well for Bronze Angel’s chances of a famous treble. He’s also a seven-year-old, and will be carrying 9 stone 7lbs. A almighty ‘trend-buster’ if he makes it.

Clearly a Cambridgeshire winner has to be a strong stayer. The race is run at a serious gallop from the off, and a stiff finish makes ‘getting home’ essential. Last year’s winner was trying the trip for the first time, but had previously finished strongly at Leicester in a handicap at just over a mile. Master The World had already won at 10 furlongs and was therefore assured of seeing out the trip.

On Saturday Gm Hopkins and 2013 winner Educate have top weight to overcome. The latter finished down the field in 2014 and 2015, and in all honesty is quite hard to fancy, despite his win at York in July. Gm Hopkins finished sixth in the race last year, having incurred some difficulty in running. He never looked like getting to the winners, though with a clearer passage could well have been placed. The five-year-old ran in the Lockinge back in May, and is undoubtedly a classy sort. It would come as no surprise to see him go close, despite the weight.

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Master The World is now on a career high mark of 108, which is 9lbs higher than when runner-up 12 months ago. He almost won the Betfred Mile back in July at Goodwood, but has gone up a further 4lbs since that run. Such a rise in the handicap makes him tough to fancy tomorrow.

Bravo Zolo is an interesting contender, having been trained specifically for this by Jeremy Noseda. Reported to be ‘training well’, the unexposed four-year-old has not been sighted since finishing a close second in the Lincoln back in April. That came on ground plenty soft enough, and he runs here off a 2lb higher mark. He could be well treated, and has Frankie Dettori on-board, though that lengthy absence has to be a concern.

Last year’s winner Third Time Lucky, looks set to go off favourite tomorrow, following the withdrawals of Sacred Act and Firmament. He ran well at York in August, though this is tougher, and he’s on a 5lb higher mark than when winning a year ago. He was on a steep upward curve back then, and I have my doubts that he can win again on Saturday.

The Roger Varian trained American Artist interests me. He was fifth behind Sacred Act at Sandown a few weeks back, but had been off the track since May, and should strip fitter this time. He came third when favourite for last year’s Silver Cambridgeshire, and has the required stamina and handicap experience. He was behind Dark Red at Chester earlier in the year, but gets a huge pull in the weights, and I fancy he’ll run a cracker tomorrow. His odds of 25s look fair to me.

Luck in running is sure to play a part in such a hugely competitive handicap. And no doubt the draw will also have a role to play. But the two that look ideal contenders to me, and will carry the added handicap of the ‘Keeling cash’, are Bravo Zolo and American Artist. Both look to have been aimed specifically at this, and are handicapped to go very close. Good luck to all those having a punt.

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