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Wednesday 23 November 2016

6.25 Chelmsford, Thursday, November 24

In the Bet Tote Trifecta Handicap (6.25) at Chelmsford on Thursday, Primrose Valley has been fighting a losing battle with the handicapper since completing a four-timer on synthetic surfaces early last year, but drops into 0-85 company for the first time since winning, off today’s mark, at Kempton in January 2015. The Pastoral Pursuits filly is 13lb lower in the weights than when last winning and, while her recent performances have been less than stellar, she is undeniably well handicapped on her best form. She’s gone well after a break in the past, so an absence of 61 days is less of a worry than might otherwise be the case, and she wasn’t beaten far, off a 2lb higher mark, when last seen at Haydock in September. Back on Polytrack, she must have a decent chance if anywhere near her best, especially with talented apprentice Hector Crouch taking off 3lb.

Selection: Chelmsford 6.25 Primrose Valley to win

Thursday 3 November 2016

3.20 Wincanton, Saturday, November 5

It was my intention this week to be all over Higher Power, erstwhile ante post favourite for the November Handicap at Doncaster, but unseasonably fast ground on Town Moor has led to the withdrawal of James Fanshawe’s progressive four-year-old. Consequently, I have switched my attention to one of my favourite races of the year, the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton, in which the ante post favourite Southfield Theatre also appears to have an outstanding chance.

Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old ran just four times last season, finishing tailed off last on his first two starts, being brought down in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and finishing fourth of 20, beaten 6¼ lengths, behind The Young Master in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. It’s worth remembering that he sustained a nasty cut in his leg when finishing second to Don Poli in the RSA Chase the previous season and Paul Nicholls’ were out of form this time last year. Indeed, his trainer believed he wasn’t badly handicapped at Cheltenham off a mark of 150 and he’s down to 147, so he must have an excellent prospects for a yard with a 12-33 (36%) strike rate in the last fortnight.

Selection: Wincanton 3.20 Southfield Theatre (4/1 with Sky Bet) to win

Tuesday 20 September 2016

3.30 Newmarket, Saturday, September 24

The defection of Caravaggio from the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (3.30) at Newmarket on Saturday has left Blue Point (2.2) as the hot favourite for the Group 1 event. Charlie Appleby’s Shamardal colt has tasted defeat just once in his short career, when going down by a neck to Mehmas in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood on his penultimate start, after hanging right in the closing stages, but resumed winning ways when quickening clear to beat Mokarris by 3 lengths in the Gimcrack Stakes at York five weeks ago.

Mehmas had previously been put firmly in his place by Caravaggio in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and subsequently proved no match for Churchill in the National Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at the Curragh last Sunday, so it would be fair to say that Aidan O’Brien has a pretty good line to the form. The Master of Ballydoyle has entered both Intelligence Cross, third in the Richmond Stakes, and Peace Envoy, a never-nearer third of five, beaten a length, behind Lady Aurelia in the Prix Morny at Deauville last month.

Intelligence Cross was disappointing in the Richmond Stakes, but had previously been beaten just half a length by Mehmas in the July Stakes at Newmarket and easily won the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh last month, while Peace Envoy arguably has the best single piece of form in the race, on paper, and appears to have been underestimated by the bookmakers. To cut a long story short, three or four of these appeal as likely winners, so laying Blue Point, at the shortest price available, on Betfair is the recommended play this week, provided Mehmas, Intelligence Cross and Peace Envoy all stand their ground at the final declaration stage on Thursday.

Monday 15 August 2016

3.40 York, Wednesday, August 17

The 3.40 at York on Wednesday is a two horse race, if the ante post betting is to be believed but, with doubts about the front pair, there may be some value in backing Highland Reel. Ante post favourite Postponed was forced to miss the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes with respiratory illness and returns to action after a 74-day break, while second favourite Hawkbill has never run, never mind won, on ground faster than good to soft on turf.

By contrast, Highland Reel loves to hear his hooves rattle and comes into the race at the top of his game, having stayed on well to beat Derby fourth Wings Of Desire by 1¼ lengths in the King George last month. Dropping back to 1 mile 2 furlongs should do his chances no harm and, with the going on the Knavesmire currently good to firm and dry, sunny weather forecast between now and Wednesday afternoon, he should be in his element.

Selection: York 3.40 Highland Reel to win

Wednesday 6 July 2016

3.15 Newmarket, Thursday, July 7

In the 3.15 at Newmarket on Thursday, Exosphere is on a retrieval mission after trailing in eighth of nine, beaten 19 lengths, behind stable companion Dartmouth in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. Sir Michael Stoute’s 4-year-old had previously beaten Simple Verse in convincing style at Newmarket, on going officially described as ‘good to soft’ but, at Ascot, the trainer’s representative reported that Exosphere was unsuited by the good to soft ground, which was too soft on that occasion.

The going on the July Course is currently good to firm, with drying conditions forecast for the immediate future, so Exosphere, who won on good and good to firm going as a 3-year-old, should have no such excuse this time. If he can return to the form that saw him readily draw clear in the closing stages to beat Simple Verse by 4 lengths in the Jockey Club Stakes, over 1 mile 4 furlongs on the Rowley Mile Course, in April, he looks a worthy favourite. The Grey Gatsby, who was winless last season, but ran creditably in defeat at the highest level on all five starts, provides stiff opposition, but at around 11/4 in the early price lists Exosphere looks the one to be on.

Selection: Newmarket 3.15 Exosphere (11/4 generally available)

Tuesday 21 June 2016

4.40 Carlisle, Wednesday, June 22

In the 4.40 Carlisle on Wednesday, Masterpaver was only just touched off on his hat-trick attempt, in a lady amateur riders’ event over 1 mile 4 furlongs at York 11 days ago and, reunited with Tony Hamilton, may be able to regain the winning thread. The Mastercraftsman gelding has been raised a further 4lb in the weights, but drops back into 0-85 company and is equally effective at this slightly shorter distance. Prior to joining Richard Fahey in April, he had been campaigned largely on synthetic surfaces for much of his career, but has taken advantage of his much lower turf mark since joining his new yard. Even so, he remains 10lb lower in the weights than when winning over 1 mile 6 furlongs on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton two seasons ago, so it’s difficult to argue that he’s not well handicapped. He appears versatile with regard to underfoot conditions, so should run his race whatever the weather in Cumbria.

Selections: Carlisle 4.40 Masterpaver to win

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Investec Diomed Stakes, 3.10 Epsom, Friday, June 3

In the Investec Diomed Stakes (3.10) at Epsom on Friday, Arod was little disappointing when beaten in a Listed race at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance in April, but was entitled to need that run – his first since last November – and can resume winning ways. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s 5-year-old escapes a Group 2 penalty and, having comfortably beaten Custom Cut by 2 lengths in this race last year, should have no problem with the idiosyncrasies of Epsom.

His second, beaten just half a length, behind Solow in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last July is far and away the best single piece of form on offer and, provided his fruitless trip to Australia last autumn hasn’t done any lasting damage, he must take a world of beating here. He’s yet to race on going slower than good to soft, so possibly doesn’t want too much rain, but otherwise had plenty going for him. At 5/2 with Stan James in the ante post market, Arod looks a decent bet to repeat last year’s win.

Selection: Epsom 3.10 Arod (5/2 with Stan James) to win

Monday 23 May 2016

4.45 Wolverhampton, Tuesday, May 24

In the 4.45 at Wolverhampton on Tuesday, Ickymasho has been quietly progressive since switched to artificial surfaces last autumn, winning over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Kempton and Wolverhampton and running creditably in defeat off her revised mark, over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Chelmsford. She appeared to translate her improvement back to turf when third of six, beaten 3 lengths, behind Distant High over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Chepstow last month but, back over 1 mile 4 furlongs, on Tapeta, with the benefit of that run behind her, she looks to have a decent chance of regaining the winning thread. She may have more scope for improvement than recent Musselburgh winner Bayan Kasirga, who nevertheless looks the pick of the opposition. The form of the yard is a slight concern, but she’s from an excellent family and may well be able to continue her progress.

Selection: Wolverhampton 4.45 Ickymasho to win

Tuesday 10 May 2016

3.45 York, Thursday, May 12th

In the Hambleton Stakes (3.45) at York on Thursday, David O’Meara doesn’t make life easy by saddling three runners, all of whom have some sort of a chance, but Lord Of The Land is the choice of Daniel Tudhope and there appears no obvious reason to argue with the stable jockey. Formerly trained by André Fabre in France, the son of Shamardal finished out with the washing, when second favourite, in the Lincoln at Doncaster early last month, but ran much better when fifth of 13, beaten 3¼ lengths, behind Predominance in a 0-105 contest over 7 furlongs at Haydock three weeks later.

Four of his five career wins have come over a mile or further and, while the prevailing good to firm going is slightly faster than he’s encountered so far, he has winning form on good going. The horse he beat in a small race at Fontainebleau last September, Don Bosco, subsequently finished third in a Group 3 contest and won a Listed race in the French provinces, so he looks well up to this standard, especially now that he’s had time to acclimatise to his new surroundings.

Selections: York 3.45 Lord Of The Land to win

Thursday 28 April 2016

5.20 Redcar, Thursday, April 28

In the 5.20 at Redcar on Thursday, Footlight was a convincing winner on her turf debut, over 7 furlongs at Catterick eight days ago and may be capable of defying a 6lb penalty. The Showcasing filly took a while to find her form, but is 2-3 under conditional jockey Adam McNamara, a recent recruit from Ireland to Richard Fahey’s stable, and proved her stamina when winning over a mile on the Fibresand at Southwell three starts ago. She’s the only distance winner – in fact, the only winner of any description – in the field so, while a few of her rivals remain unexposed, she appears to have an obvious chance, even giving weight away all around. She’s already had ten starts since November, but appears to be thriving on racing and a mile on soft going could conceivably eke out a little more improvement.

Selection: Redcar 5.20 Footlight to win

Monday 18 April 2016

3.30 Catterick, Tuesday, April 19

In the 2016 Catterick Twelve Furlong Series Handicap (3.30), Dalaki hasn’t had many attempts on soft going, but sprung a 50/1 surprise over hurdles at Fakenham on New Year’s Day and ran creditably in defeat when fifth of 10, beaten 3¼ lengths, behind Alphabetical Order in a similar race on the Flat at Doncaster earlier this month. The son of Dalakhani is just 1lb higher in the weights than when last winning on the Flat and the booking of Tony Hamilton, who replaces amateur rider Mr. Ryan Bird, takes the eye. Interestingly, Richard Fahey’s stable jockey has never had a ride for Newmarket trainer
Des Donovan, who, in turn, has never saddled a runner at Catterick. So, if the 5-year-old does prevail, it’ll be a day of firsts all around.

Selection: Catterick 3.30 Dalaki to win

Wednesday 6 April 2016

4.40 Aintree, Thursday, April 7

In the Betfred Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40) at Aintree on Thursday, Pearls Legend is 10lb higher in the weights than when a rallying third, beaten 2¼ lengths, in the same race last year, but only 4lb higher than when winning at Cheltenham in December and looks far from impossibly handicapped. John Spearing’s 9-year-old doesn’t know how to run a bad race and his latest fifth of 24, beaten 8¼ lengths, behind Solar Impulse in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month was another solid effort. Indeed, the form has already been franked by the fourth, Savello, who won a small conditions chase in good style at Kelso last Saturday.

Pearls Legend 1lb lower in the weights here and, having recorded four of his five career wins on properly soft ground, any rain that falls is in his favour. Regular partner Jamie Moore is at Taunton but, in his absence, Nico De Boinville, who won on him at Cheltenham, comes in for the ride, so the Midnight Legend gelding appears to have plenty going for him.

Selection: Aintree 4.40 Pearls Legend to win