If I could spend the rest of my betting life only able to punt in those big field handicaps on the straight track at Ascot, I'd be a happy man. River Nymph provided a cracking 12/1 winner in landing the Victoria Cup and gave me my first return in the race since Gabriel's Lad at 25/1 in 2014 (good times!!). Adam Kirby deserves huge credit for a fantastic ride and hopefully they'll make a splash in pattern races soon enough.
As is usually the case, the other selections were useless. Alounak was keen and didn't run anywhere near his best level again, although I could be tempted into playing him at a price sometime in the future. Presidential is out of form but will bounce back eventually, whilst Skontonovski just didn't go a yard. There's ability in there somewhere if it ever decides to come out on the track. Will it? God knows.
+9.00pts on the day.
Some quality action to get stuck into and York is another of my favourite tracks, although my performance there can vary wildly from season to season! Thankfully everything is going along nicely and we're up almost 40pts from the last 15 bets and +35.81pts on the season. Now, the hard part is to keep that figure going up!
We haven't got to see the best of a few of these and Sam Cooke, despite being a 5-year-old, slots into that category for me. He has only had eight career outings and was off the track a long time after his Chester win in 2019, but showed he retained the scope to improve when nosed into second at Ascot last July. He went off at 7/2 for the November handicap at Doncaster, which didn't work out, but he was heavily punted which hopefully indicates that connections feel he's a well-treated performer. Back on turf after another break, he has the right style to thrive at this venue (won maiden here) and rain won't be an issue. 10/1 is fair.
Magical Spirit should be up to winning a big handicap this term and hopefully it might be now! He was a revelation in the Ayr Silver Cup last year, absolutely bolting up having made all of the running, and remains quite unexposed under similar conditions (6f with cut underfoot). A good C&D effort followed when possibly not best suited by his track position and those who raced prominently near side went hard enough, early enough! He has had a nice pipe opener at Doncaster on quick ground and assuming he comes on for that run, it's hard to see him out of the frame here. A middle draw should be sound and I think he's a good bet.
Sadiqaa wasn't spared from the track last season, running seven times between July and October, and he posted some sound efforts. His last start was a particularly good third behind Conservatoire and Maxi Boy, and the fourth home, Paws For Thought, bolted up in a handicap off 87 last week. That came on heavy ground, so any prospect of rain isn't a problem, and being gelded could help to eke out some more improvement. I think the course will be perfect for his style and there must be scope for him to kick on as a 3-year-old off just 81. I like the booking of William Buick and all going to plan, they'll be in the mixer late on.
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