There is a moderate number of fairly decent races on offer this afternoon with the big racing ahead next week at Royal Ascot. York and Sandown offer the televised racing with a female rider Class 3 event, three Class 2 handicaps and a Listed event limited to 3yo's. I am not yet sure where my interests for the day will come from, but I am sure we can find at least a couple of overpriced runners to give us a good run for our money.
After a couple of midweek disappointments I am keen to get back in the winners enclosure ahead of Tuesday and the mammoth test that awaits.
In televised order, the races I am concentrating on will be detailed below:
2.05 - Queen Mother's Cup (Lady Amateur Riders) (Handicap) (Class 3) 1m 4f
Soft ground expected on all courses this afternoon with more rain expected and this could be the one ingredient that makes it a tough assignment to find winners this afternoon. Trends guru's will do well to stay away, especially at York, as the last time it was soft on this day was in 2002, which means the last 9 renewals of any event scheduled for this afternoon, have a roll of honour suited to much quicker conditions.
Eagle Rock is the 5-1 Fav for this event and will be ridden by Miss Hayley Moore who was winless on her recent worldwide tour competing in the Fegentri Championships. Seriously, even Miss Rachel King mustered a win when she competed for Great Britain prior to Miss Moore taking over the representation of our region.
The horse itself is on the upgrade but will have to cope with a wide draw in stall 15 and be patiently ridden. Being a son of High Chaparral means he should benefit from all going types, but with his trainer commenting earlier in his career that he prefers his ground to be quite decent, there must be a cautious approach to anyone who backs him on the soft ground expected here.
There are plenty at bigger prices worth consideration in a field where it is likely they may set off too quickly. RED JADE is one such creature given the fact that his handicap mark has reached such a low level in time for this event. This horse is clearly at his best when running after a break so it is with some regret that he appeared last time on a race track just 21 days ago. However there is reason to believe that he may be sufficiently well handicapped this afternoon, to make an impression in the race.
Now on a mark of only 74, some 9lbs lower than when he ran as the favourite for a Class 4 handicap over C&D only last October. As an each way proposition there can be no better alternative in my book with a pay out on the first four places. With a weight of under 10st in these soggy conditions, he may run an exceptional race and even manage to win at very big odds.
Hong Kong Island is not without place claims at 28-1+ odds, if he can overcome stall 18. Now on a less severe mark of just 81 he can show his liking for softer underfoot conditions. The jockey on board Miss R Smith was third in this race last season when never having previously rode a winner and with a bit more experience she is now only able to claim 3lb and should give a good account of herself and the horse.
Hanoverian Baron has also been given a very good mention in some very intelligent places and looks favoured by the handicap now that he has been dropped a further 6lb. His jockey also comes out of retirement for the race, so the trainer looks very keen! The latest 8-1 is more realistic, than particular value I would have thought.
2.35 - Ladbrokes.com Handicap (Class 2) 1m 208yds
This is quite a decent event on paper with two joint top rated runners, each on a mark of 99. The trip is an unusual distance in some respects and it can often be too much of a test for a genuine miler, which should become more apparent in the more testing conditions on display here.
The ground may have gone against the Marco Botti trained Halfsin for this event, but he has still been quite well supported this morning. Hillview Boy who is another potentially well touted possible to land the spoils will have to contend with the shorter trip at the age of eight for him to figure. Generally it seems unlikely that he will prosper given the fact speed deteriorates with age.
Another featured runner in the betting is Dubai Dynamo who I think I was fortunate in my calculations to be on him when he actually won his only race this season! An infrequent winner who enjoys Ripon and is currently not treated well enough to make any impression I would have thought in this race.
The two I would want to take out of this field as potential winners are the Kieran Fallon ridden Navajo Chief (6-1) and the partial outsider Barren Brook (11-1). Each has the credentials to be effective in the ground, but deciphering which horse has the greatest potential based on the prices is proving extremely difficult to gauge. The likelihood is that the same stakes on both or a dutch bet will prove the most viable option.
There is however a premise that with likely competition for the lead Navajo Chief will find this a tough battle. Coupled together with the fact Kieran Fallon has only one win from NINE rides aboard this horse and the value at 6-1 seems to be minimal. A good draw and a prominent ride are likely and I have no doubts he will reach shorter odds inrunning should he not win. Suspicion is that on this soft ground, the 9f test may prove too stamina sapping for him to maintain his challenge to the line, even with the notorious Fallon drive to assist him.
Therefore I am inclined to head towards BARREN BROOK as my main play in this competitive event. However, his chances mainly lie with how he starts judging by the consistency that is he slow to exit the stalls nowadays. A level break will see him go close, but whether one is likely remains unknown.
This horse was made for York and is a steady galloper who will have enough speed to be effective at the 9f trip. The fast pace will ensure he settles and he should go close if all things go according to plan.
It is however a risk in placing a bet on the selection as he has suffered an almighty drift on the exchanges this morning. One thing though I prefer, despite general public opinion, is to be placing my bets on a drifter, rather than one that has already been heavily gambled and the value disappeared from. Drifters ultimately can, and sometimes do, win!
2.50 - Betfred The Bonus King Handicap (Class 2) 1m 14yds
It is soft at Sandown as well this afternoon as the national deluge of rain continues into the weekend. Fitness is my number one priority when the ground is riding soft so any runners who have not appeared on the track within the last month I tend to ignore, unless they are proven with a fair record of running well fresh in the conditions.
This race looks a puzzle and one which I may have been best avoiding, but a couple perhaps resemble value in a pretty much open contest. One which may surprise is Morana who reappears after an absence of 772 days. Given a mark of 98 on his return, the soft ground should be his preferred going and if he has been produced as race fit by his trainer, he could run a big race, possibly without winning.
The perhaps surprise selection of mine is the 3yo FENNELL BAY, the only horse in his age group to be entered in the race. With a fair 10lb weight-for-age allowance able to benefit the selection in the soft going, I expect him to run well, despite a rising mark. His trainer is a good judge with the placement of his horses and Joe Fanning returns to the saddle having been successful on his only previous ride.
A draw in stall 11 may instigate more patient tactics, which the horse benefited from earlier in the season when winning a heated contest at Newmarket. A staying on performance last time over further suggested in my mind that a drop back in trip on a stiffer circuit would be the right move going forwards. Today he has what is probably his ideal conditions, but whether his handicap mark is still fair, time will tell.
3.10 - Bond Tyres Trophy (Handicap) (Class 2) 6f
Back to York for what will be the final assignment of our afternoon and with plenty of rain likely to have fallen by this stage, it could get very testing for these sprinters. Stamina will probably be the main asset coupled with a beneficial draw and the one that sticks out carrying a low weight in the process is NAMEITWHATYOULIKE.
As a 2yo his best form came when there was cut in the ground and whilst he is clearly likely to be better at further (has won over a mile recently) he should take some beating if given a positive ride here. Drawn low he can hopefully not be at a disadvantage and it is interesting connections re-employ the blinkers as he won over C&D when they were first applied last season.
He is clearly not without a chance in this going, but at 11-1 with more than 16 runners present, the value appears as not being exceptional. He was available at massive odds of 25-1 on Thursday evening and has been backed steadily in the market ever since.
Another runner with potential value behind him is the lightly raced SHOLAAN who is blinkered for the first time. His maiden win reads well as the second placed horse has won on both his starts since in Class 4 company. Sholaan has ran disappointingly at both Chester and Epsom in his short career to date which also suggests he is not suited to the tight, downhill tracks. On a galloping track this afternoon with cut in the ground he could be the one to make a significant impression in the race, and he coupled with Nameitwhatyoulike are the two potential winners amongst the field.
PLEASE NOTE: Hanoverian Baron has been given a mention for the Queen Mother's Cup, since I initially uploaded my blog earlier this morning. He has been backed significantly, but still deserved a mention as he obviously has a winning chance.