George Baker was strong in the market before the off, which was massively encouraging given the yard he represents. Unfortunately, the horse suffered numerous problems in-running and could never get into any sort of position to challenge. Frankie Dettori didn't cover himself in glory either and nothing went right for the horse. This rates as being a fair way better than his finishing position suggests and he remains of interest, as he is handicapped to win a race and is the sort who has more in the tank than he shows.
The one that got away was clearly Oneladyowner, who was also well-supported beforehand and showed how good he can be by finishing 2nd, beaten by just a nose. Unlike his most recent outing, the track bias was in his favour this time around and that was a big help. What wasn't a big help was the fact that he got no tow into the race on the wide-outside and that he was racing from 2lbs out of the handicap, which was proven to be his downfall. Had he been able to race off his correct rating then he wasn't for beating here and it is a pity for our bank accounts! The horse ran a cracker though and was only nosed out of it in the final stride of a driving finish. It's gutting, but sometimes they go your way and we're due another one now!
-4.00pts on the day. Form of last 10 selections; 4-3-1-0-7-3-6-1-7-2 (2 winners & 3 places).
With no fewer than 6 selections running for us today, it's either going to be a decent day or a depressing one. There are so many races that I just love backing in though and from the minute I was going through these cards a few days ago I knew that we'd be getting stuck in. The main problem is that they're all ultra-competitive and it wouldn't be a surprise if we fired blanks, which would be utterly frustrating after getting Oneladyowner beat yesterday. I think that they are all lively ones though and who knows, we could get the luck required to have a good one. Just don't go mad and over-stake unless you fancy any of them yourself, because these are the sort of days where you (I!) either look like a genius or an utter clown. Hopefully it'll be the genius part for a change and have a good day folks, with a winner or two to celebrate preferably.
Apologies in advance, just in case they're all beaten.
This race is the opposite of a good betting medium, with so many unexposed types in the line up but I am going to overlook that in order to side with Richard Fahey's Gabrial, a horse who I expect to have lots more to come. Backing one of the market leaders in a big-field handicap is hardly mind-blowing stuff and I won't be winning any prizes for originality, but this five-times raced 3-year-old is certainly capable of performing beyond his current rating of 91 and there's enough of a price about to make him a worthwhile bet. Seeing as he is owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, the Chester meeting that the horse ran at a couple of weeks ago was probably one of his main seasonal targets and he was quite unfortunate not to be successful there, as he threw away that contest by hanging both ways and also ran into a talented rival who was capable of taking advantage of his mistakes. A combination of inexperience and a probable dislike of the ground was his downfall, and it's testament to his raw ability that he was able to post such a good performance when so much was against him. Coming back to a properly quick surface is a sure-fire plus and the likelihood that this race will be run at a proper gallop is going to play into his hands. Stall 2 should prove to be a nice sit and Jamie Spencer being on board will help, especially as he has a phenomenal record around the Haydock track with 3-year-old's (24 wins, 23 places, 97 rides; 25% strike-rate). So many potential dangers are lurking in this field and I'd be an idiot to say that I'm very confident, but this fellow should put up a bold show if all is well and he's worthy of support at the price. If he doesn't run well at least, I'd be surprised.
Connections of Elusivity blew any chance they had of landing some lucrative sprint handicaps with him by running in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last time out, a race in which he finished in a close-up 3rd of 16 on his first try at the minimum trip. Ever since they've found the key to the horse - which is holding onto him for as long as possible - he has improved immensely, moving up over 2 stone in the ratings and looking every inch a pattern-class performer. The way that this 4-year-old can travel is unreal and seemingly the reason that his 2-18 (has 7 seconds) record isn't significantly better is down to having just a single burst of acceleration. Due to that, he may always prove to be a better proposition in this sort of race, where the pace-makers are going to last for a lot longer than they would in lesser contests and thus meaning that his limited finishing effort can be delayed until the last seconds. Shane Kelly is also a decent jockey for employing such tactics, although he could as easily scupper the whole thing by doing something beyond stupidity. It's a real pity that Spencer has to ride the Koukash horse, as he is the ideal partner for a horse with Elusivity's traits. There seems to be a question mark over this fellows trip, with Meehan saying that he might just need another furlong and 5f around here on really quick ground might be all too much. I don't see why he would have a problem with it, if he's good enough, and the race will at least be run to suit him. The duo at the head of the market will be hard to beat, but they're much too short in a race like this and I have to oppose. Brian Meehan's gelding is still on the up, despite having a rather exposed look to his profile, and he's worth taking a chance on here in the hope that the favourites flop.
With all of 6 of his career wins gained in the first half of the flat season, King Of Eden should be coming close to his time to strike and he looks to be an attractive betting proposition despite this being a wide-open contest. Eric Alston's 6-year-old won first time out in both 2010 & 11, but never had any chance of repeating that feat this time around in an ultra-competitive race at Newmarket on ground softer than is his want. He still posted a decent effort, all things considered, and seeing as he is a sizeable horse, the run can be expected to bring him on somewhat as well. The return to a genuinely quick surface is going to help, as will the drop in grade because he's back in a C4 contest over 6f on quick ground for the first time since sluicing up off today's mark on his second outing of 2011. This race is more competitive but he is a strong travelling type who relishes a solid gallop and he should get that here, which adds to his claims of running a big race. Pat Cosgrave is booked to ride for the very first time and although he usually wouldn't inspire too much confidence for me, his record of 7 wins from just 21 rides on Eric Alston's sprinters is incredible and hopefully it's a significant booking (the market should reveal). Nothing in the field would worry me too much and if our selection can get some luck with the usual biases that pop up in sprints, he stands a good chance of getting involved. I could be very wrong though and given the nature of the contest, we're better off playing it cautiously with regard to stakes. He's capable though, and should be in the mix.
Another stunningly difficult handicap to solve but Johannes is going to love the rapid race-pace and he is fancied to get his head in-front for the first time in over 2 years. That last win came over C&D off of a 10lb higher mark, when there was also a furious pace from the off and that seems to be the only way that this now 9-year-old gelding is going to get a victory over the minimum distance. Richard Fahey's charge was sent off as the favourite for two C&D handicaps this time last year, when rated 9 & 10lbs higher and his connections must think that this is the sort of place where he can be seen to best effect. In fairness, he has run many a cracking race since his last win but needs everything to fall his way, thus making him a risky proposition in any contest. The handicapper is finally being fair with him though and despite getting on in years, a mark of 85 is far from insurmountable when the penny finally drops again. His only pair of outings this year have both come at Doncaster, the most recent being in the race that I've flagged up on numerous occasions in the past couple of weeks. There was a notorious track bias in that race, where horses who weren't racing on the stand-side had no chance and Fahey's charge was one of those who ended up being hindered by how it all panned out. He finished his race off really well though, despite not getting much of a pull into the equation and can have his effort marked up quite a lot. Whether his ageing legs will want a speed test such as this has to be a big concern, but the horse is reported to be in good form and should be close to hitting his peak. Everything about this race will be run to suit him I think and if he is able to cope with the speed demands in the early stages, he should be in with a chance and is likely to be finishing his race off as well as any. Odds of around the 11/1 mark underestimate him and taking a punt on him is justified. Of the rest, Ancient Cross was quite interesting again but the jockey puts me off.
Tricky stuff to call here but taking a chance on Noverre To Go might not be a bad idea given his big price-tag and how well his stable have been going of late. On the other hand, this 6-year-old gelding looked a shadow of his former self throughout 2011 and whether he will ever find his way again has to be rather debatable. He began last year as a 97-rated animal, having put in some very fine performances in top-level sprint handicaps when trained by Tom Dascombe at Manor Horse. However, he only really ran one good race with that yard (over inadequate 5f at Chester) throughout the year and had to be dropped into an awful Warwick seller in order to get his head in-front, after which he was sold to Ron Harris for 14,000gns. Harris ran him twice after that and he did quite well on his debut, over today's C&D on ground that would have been too testing for him (only beaten around 3-lengths in 16-runner handicap off 87). His next outing came at Goodwood, where he ran a cracker in the 2010 Stewards' Cup, but he was awkwardly away and hampered with a couple of furlongs to run, so there is no point in taking that form literally. Since then, he hasn't been out on a racecourse but resumes off of a very attractive looking mark of 82 and has blinkers added to his regular tongue-tie for the first time, which could be the spark that's needed. If that can have the desired effect then he would surely have a chance of getting involved from a good draw at a track that suits him. The ground coming up on the quick side is exactly what he wants and with the stable being in cracking form of late, who knows what could happen. Luke Morris being on board is a bit off-putting, as his record around here is atrocious but 12/1 is simply too big about this horse in the hope that he's going to return to something like his best. Now obviously the long lay-off is a worry and he's fully entitled to need the run, but he has run well when fresh in years gone by and taking a chance could be rewarding, I hope!
I wasn't too keen on backing anything at Chester today but we were on Vizean when she last appeared on the track, nearly a month ago, and there's no doubting that she'd go on to win if we left her alone this time. When we backed this 4-year-old filly, on her seasonal debut over 6f at Doncaster, she showed exceptional speed for around two-thirds of the race before steadily weakening out of the equation. The testing ground conditions and a possible lack of race-fitness seemed to take its toll on her (although she was strong in the market; suggesting that a better run was expected) and the jockey didn't give her a hard time of it at all. That outing should have brought her on nicely and it's interesting that connections are bringing her down to Chester, a track that should suit her speedy run-style and she has a lovely draw in stall 3. The return to a quicker surface should help based on her only run this year and the yard being in cracking form of late also bodes well for her chances. John Mackie sees fit to book the similarly in-form Michael O'Connell to ride and although I used to slate him in times gone by, he has improved a hell of a lot and now looks like a very accomplished rider. This is a nothing race really and despite Vizean being a very disappointing type (6 seconds from 10 outings; no wins), she has enough about her to win a race like this off a mark of 65 and hopefully her day is finally here. Nothing would surprise me though, so we'll play it cautiously again.
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