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Like people in society, there are plenty of rogues of the four-legged type on the racecourse and Ed walker’s charge CRITIQUE is one of those. I know connections thought that he would be plying his trade at a much higher level than a 0-60 handicap, but he keeps on finding ways of not putting his best hoof forward.
Soft ground isn’t a problem for this son of Cacique and a rating of 57 is very much within his capabilities. His first run of the season at Chelmsford was probably needed and being a definitive hold-up horse, he wouldn’t have been suited by the soft pace up top.
Having re-watched all of his recent races, it seems fairly clear that he needs to be kidded through his races, passing beaten horses down the stretch and the booking of Oisin Murphy (a close up fourth of 11 on his only start on the horse) suggests that the stable mean business with this real monkey of a horse.
That shouldn’t be the case here and if the selection is on one of his going days, then he looks sure to be involved in the finish.
By the time the Victoria Cup comes along on Saturday, even for a fast-draining track like Ascot, the ground could be on the testing side. Normally on the straight course that favours those drawn on the stands’ side (high numbers). My initial thought before the draw was to back History Writer (drawn in Stall 9) after he shaped very well in the Lincoln, but his chance was then compromised by a slow pace in the Spring Cup at Newbury on quicker ground.
If Shoemark stays on the far side his day will be done, so I would hope he would be switched in behind the field to the stands’ side and from stall 9 in a field of 29, that is a difficult move to make. However, he would still be my back-up bet if I feel the need to have a play on each side of the course and the track doesn’t show a big bias.
I would much rather have a wager on a double-figure drawn entry and I believe that last year’s Jersey Stakes fourth ROPEY GUEST fits the bill nicely.
That course and distance run came on soft ground and from stall number 23 his chance is there for all to see off a rating of just 98. Old boys Greenside (22) and Raising Sands (26) will both relish the likely testing conditions and if they retain much of their old ability, they are players. Meanwhile, Wokingham consolation winner Chiefofchiefs has claims if he sees out a seventh furlong in a fast-run race and Walhaan having his first run for James Tate.
The last named is becoming dangerously well handicapped and a fast-run seven furlongs could suit him down to the ground for his shrewd new handler.
I couldn’t really find an edge in the hurdles’ events on this mixed card, although I was tempted by the unexposed Defining Battle (Dan Skelton) in the Swinton Handicap Hurdle at 15:10 and Vision Des Flos off top weight in the opening stayers’ hurdle.
However, this 7-furlong handicap has a much better betting shape to it. With the unbeaten Ffion and King of Tonga (from the in-form David O’Meara yard) likely to make the market, I am going to give the veteran mud lover PRESIDENTIAL another chance. It is worth remembering that Roger Fell’s charge was second off 86 last autumn in a better race than this, and less than a year ago his last winning mark was 84.
Following his three runs this season, the seven-year-old has dropped from a rating of 84 to 76. However, two of those runs came over a mile at Newcastle, which stretched his stamina, and the other outing was on fast ground at Redcar, which he simply doesn’t act on.
Give in the ground, and plenty of it, is guaranteed at the Merseyside track and I fancy that the selection won’t get a better chance this year to return to winning form with plenty in his favour. Anything in double figures would make him a very solid bet for me at a level he can do plenty of damage in. I can see him being one of the positive movers in the market as the ground eases closer to off time.
There is little doubt that George Bowen is one of the best handicapped sprinters in training at this level and he has already shown this term that he retains most of his ability. But, the call with Richard Fahey’s veteran is that he is vastly more effective on top of the ground.
So the nod once again goes to a George Margarson charge SPIRITED GUEST, back down to his winning mark of 77, a rating he defied when he won on testing ground at Yarmouth in August.
His last run at Windsor can be readily dismissed as he nearly unshipped Tom Queally at Windsor last time out, but a repeat of his third to Dirty Rascal at Wolverhampton back on April 5 would put him right in the firing line now.
Of his other rivals, the veteran Pettochside was impressive over the minimum trip here last time out, but is not so nearly as good over 6 furlongs. However, the booking of Silvestre De Sousa for Global Esteem, dropping in trip, catches the eye. Lastly, Batchelor Boy remains unexposed on turf and hails from a yard (George Boughey) on fire at the moment.
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