A whopping NINE races will be televised live on Channel 4 this afternoon, which from memory is the largest number I have ever witnessed from their two hour long show. Races from each of Goodwood, Haydock and York, plus additional Classic 2000 Guineas action from The Curragh are all scheduled, on what looks set to be quite fast ground almost everywhere.
The good thing about fast ground is that the best horses win, but it can mean less value as favourites tend to have a bigger say. There are still chances and mispriced selections though, and that is what I am hoping to find this afternoon.
Here are my favoured selections in the order that they will race this afternoon:
2.15 - 32 Red Casino Handicap (Class 2) 1m 1f 192yds (GOODWOOD)
There are a perfect eight runners lined up to contest this 3yo event and if that number remains there could be a fairly useful prospect of an each way return on any investments. Without entertaining the thought of writing in too much detail, about what is only a minor event, I still have to illustrate TRADER JACK to be the best value option and selection of choice.
Trainer Roger Charlton has a fairly useful record with his runners at Goodwood (19% strike rate) and has hit top form in the last fortnight with five winners and a further four placings. This horse was a flop first time out this season on heavy ground at Sandown and the handicapper was very lenient on him, by dropping him 2lb to a mark of 88 as a result. In comparison, for the same race, rival Grandeur also ran and did not receive a drop in weight despite finishing adrift as well. I love a bit of favouritism by the handicapper, I just wish I knew who they bet with!
With a strong will and scope for improvement now back on faster ground, this son of Trade Fair can easily be forgiven his heavy ground defeat. He looked more than capable when finishing third on his debut,on quick ground, and I feel he is the value at 7-1 with Victor Chandler.
2.30 - Betfred Silver Bowl Handicap (Class 2) 1m (HAYDOCK)
Seventeen runners and a headache await for what is historically known as a friendly punter race, despite the larger 16+ runner field that often commits to line up. Quite strangely, for such a large handicap, no winner has won in the last ten years with a bigger SP than 15-2. Market leaders look an almost certainty, but I do not consider this to be a reliable trend and it would be foolish not to consider all horses at first.
Archbishop has been the biggest gambled horse having been 9-1 on the initial market list earlier this week, before a plunge converted him into almost half the price at 9-2. Ladbrokes this morning for a time, offered 6-1, but with all and sundry seemingly tipping him up, I feel the winner may come from elsewhere. (Now a NON RUNNER, ground too quick I imagine, as expected.)
Over the course of the last ten runnings of this race, only three have been successful carrying above 9st. Two of those winners had a fair amount of racing experience and all three proved themselves capable at Listed level with one making up into a later Group 2 winner.
The Haydock course should ride at its quickest this afternoon so any winner in soft ground I would be keen to avoid, especially those that have had their rating risen markedly as a result. Grey Mirage is a perfect example of a horse who thrived in testing conditions last time, was penalised 7lb as a result, and now features quite prominently in the betting for a race totally different in set up, than he is used to.
With no exceptional talents heading the weights it seems quite likely that this years winner will come from further down the racecard
Despite there appearing to be several improvers amongst the field I am quietly optimistic that NEMUSHKA can run a big race for the ladies, with Anna Pavlova being the only filly winner of this race, over the last ten years. As a 2yo she only found the enthusiastic Pimpernel too good for her, in three starts on quick ground, before her debut this season saw her try her hand at much slower going.
Ultimately she disappointed in the soft ground at Doncaster, but it has to be noted that she was sent off as favourite, so a good performance was expected. Back on her favoured quicker going, still only rated 81 by the handicapper, she must have a chance, despite a wider draw.
Hold up horses have fared quite well over the years and with a very fast pace likely, it could be a similar story this afternoon. Nemushka also tries on first time cheekpieces this afternoon in an attempt to stop her from hanging and in an attempt to aid her overall poor starting technique. If they work and she does start well and drop in behind, I can see her running on powerfully on ground that will suit her well.
Next best, but at a much shorter price and possibly little value is Frog Hollow, should has a positive stall in 5 and looks destined to prove better suited to the way this race is run, than last time. The obvious concern is that his trainer Ralph Beckett has never had a winner at Haydock in the last five years, but this horse looks set to improve for faster ground and looks the most likely winner. Apparently the main aim this season with him, will be the Britannia Handicap at Ascot over a mile. He could be worth a small interest as he looks well handicapped still.
(Several more runners have pulled out since I wrote this and all of them had a prominent racing style. Having looked through the field there now appears to be a lack of pace which means TRAIL BLAZE could be of huge interest at the foot of the weights, with a 3lb claimer on board. Take a look, it looks like the two selections and this one may make the perfect combination forecast.)
3.00 - Betfred Temple Stakes (Group 2) 5f (HAYDOCK)
A highly competitive and quite prestigious sprint race over the minimum trip at Haydock, which this year features another quality field. This is generally used as a prep race for the King Stands Stakes at Royal Ascot and the roll of honour is impressive. Last years winner Sole Power should thrive in conditions and looks one for the shortlist, but a marginal preference at more than double the odds is MASAMAH.
This horse had excuses for each defeat last season, but when the conditions were all in his favour, he always ran a superb race. Winner of the King George Stakes (Group 2) at Goodwood, eased down at the finish, last season goes some way to illustrating the form of which he is capable of.
No doubt that if he shows a willing attitude in the preliminaries, his general odds for the race will shorten from their present 8-1 offering. For the last two seasons he has debuted at Chester but this year the awful going meant he would wait until this race for his comeback run. When on song he is a notable strong, early galloper and takes some catching. His stablemate Bapak Chinta is also worth watching in the market and may place if returning to the track on song.
3.15 - Abu Dhabi Irish 2000 Guineas (Group 1) 1m (CURRAGH)
An almost impossible race to analyse and the most open renewal in the last decade quite probably too. Bookmakers themselves appear confused as to who should be the potential favourite and a market move on Trumpet Major early this morning may prove misleading. I did fancy this horse for the race, last weekend, but having weighed up his form to date I cannot help but feel that a rival may improve past time.
Hermival in my view was suited by the conditions at Newmarket being more of a test of stamina, rather than speed. He looks like a horse capable at the highest level this season, but an overall profile suggests softer ground is ideal and today looks all about speed.
It might prove foolish, but given the extent of the competitive nature of the contest I am intrigued by the each way prospects of likely pacemaker REPLY. He will have an uncontested lead and may well be able to land a sizeable prize, should his stamina last the trip. In a race evoking so many questions, why not chance the pacemaker? It has happened before, and will happen many times in the future.
3.20 - 32Red.com Handicap (Class 2) 1m 4f (GOODWOOD)
A interesting little handicap that can go the way of LIFE AND SOUL now that he looks well treated. Fast ground should not be too much of a negative and this proper galloper may prove too lightly weighted for some of his rivals here. Soft ground on his return to the track will have been unsuitable and though this is faster than I feel is ideal, he may prove best of the nine runner field.
Current best priced odds of 15-2 suggest an each way bet could yield a fair return.
I will leave it there and hope that today we return to winning ways after a very disappointing performance by the selection on Thursday.