A rather subdued day of racing on Sunday with no Irish action, but with a fair Flat card at Windsor and two good-quality jumps meetings at Uttoxeter and Cartmel, there is plenty to get our teeth stuck into. It is the first-named track where our first bet comes, in the opening James Cook 90th Birthday Handicap at 14:10.
Fair play to James for reaching such an age and what better way to celebrate, with champagne, sun and an array of Windsor’s finest women all likely to be on show. We are relying on Silvestre De Sousa to get us off to the best possible start on Benny And The Jets, who won last time out in the style of a horse that has much more to offer. He made a mockery of his opening mark, tanking along and soon clear when asked to win his race over a furlong from home. The handicapper has hit him with an 8 lb rise, but that shouldn’t be enough to stop him giving James a birthday winner.
Later on the card in the mile minor event at 15:50 it is Al Battar who makes a fair bit of appeal. He cost nearly as much (€1,550,000) as one of Prince Harry and Meghan’s new bathrooms in their newly renovated Windsor home, but from what he showed on his debut at Kempton in December he looks a far more shrewd purchase than a gold plated toilet seat.
As you can imagine with a price tag like that, Al Battar very much looks the part, and caught the eye by the end of the race, a slow start forcing his jockey to situate him off the pace, but he kept on well once in the straight without being knocked about. That form has worked out well, with the winner going on to prove himself a smart performer, and Al Battar rates the type to improve significantly for that experience.
The competitive Summer Cup Handicap Chase takes place at Uttoxeter at 16:05, and it looks ripe for Theclockisticking. He won his first start over fences at Fakenham in November, then lost little in defeat when finishing second to a smart type in a Grade 2 at Doncaster on his next start. Connections decided to go back hurdling with him after, but he was strong in the betting, and shaped with plenty of encouragement back over fences on his handicap debut over three miles at this course last time.
There’s a chance he may have won if things had panned out differently, too, being patiently ridden when making a shocking mistake at the eleventh but keeping on well when his chance had gone, finishing with running left. Theclockisticking is yet to win a big one – like Liverpool fans still yearning for that first Premier League title, and the clock is ticking for them, too – but he remains unexposed as a chaser, and will be suited by this longer trip, so has plenty in his favour.
Our final selection comes from Cartmel, in another handicap chase that goes off at 16:15. The selection here is Beau Sancy, who showed the benefit of a breathing operation when bolting up on good ground at Kelso in May. That was his fourth win in six starts since joining the Olly Murphy yard, and judged on that performance, it shouldn’t be his last.
Admittedly, he wasn’t always fluent – like my speech after eight pints – but he jumped well enough in the main, produced to lead between the last two fences and cruised clear after, winning with plenty in hand. The handicapper has had his say by raising him 12 lb in the weights, but he has been given plenty of time to get over that win, and his shrewd handler has likely saved him with a big pot such as this in mind; there should be even more to come and he looks a leading player.