The first day of the Eclipse meeting looks a pretty good warmup for the feature day with two Listed affairs, alongside some competitive handicaps, which I love to decipher… so let’s have a go!
Top of my shopping list has to be the opening five-furlong handicap in which top weight Miracle Of Medinah returns to the minimum trip at 13:50 for the first time in six years!
The now eight-year-old is quite obviously on the downgrade, but the three times he has run off this mark of 91, the gelding has always been competitive, and in much better races than this one.
It was only just over a year ago that the veteran finished a length and a half off subsequent Wokingham second and July Cup sixth Dreamfield. A run within six pounds of that effort would, on my private ratings, see him home and hosed here.
The key to his chance is not missing the break in behind a couple of progressive three-year-olds but granted a hot pace and the long uphill run to the line on his favoured fast ground, I reckon that Mark Usher’s charge can pick up his juniors close home.
Of the younger generation, Karl Burke’s Exalted Angel is the one I fear most – although rattling fast ground may not be perfect for this son of Dark Angel.
The Listed Dragon Stakes at 14:20 has been farmed between Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston in four of the last five years, but only the Scottish maestro has an entry this year in the form of Makyon, 11th of 17 runners in the Coventry Stakes.
This drop-in class and step back in trip looks made to measure for this rapid son of Make Believe and I fancy that Ryan Moore will bid to make all at the main expense of Liberty Beach and Al Raya.
But, the best value wager of the day is Elector in the mile and a quarter handicap due off at 16:00.
The one huge rule in the world of horse punting that I abide by is that in the right circumstances you have to forgive a horse one or even two bad runs when certain factors conspire against them.
This Royal runner simply couldn’t handle Epsom last time out and the trip was also too sharp for him. Look back through his CV and you will see that connections initially thought he was a stayer, running the colt in the King Edward VII Stakes behind Old Persian.
However, his opening win at Newmarket strongly suggested 10 furlongs was his optimum trip and back on a more conventional track and off only a 2lbs higher mark, I shall be gunning for an offer of around 4/1 for this son of Dansili.
The staying handicap at 16:35 is by far the most competitive race on the card and you could make a case for at least seven of the 10 runners.
Emenem (e/w) has always looked like a non-stayer to me over this kind of trip, but the key to his chance here is getting him in behind horses and allowing him to find his rhythm, getting a nice tow into the closing stages.
What I want to see is Harry Bentley ride him with balls of steel and only unleash him from about a furlong and a half out using his turn of foot.
His current handicap mark of 80 is well within his capabilities and granted the perfect ride, I think I should be in the paddock with Messrs Bentley and Dow – then I expect he could outrun his likely double-figure price.
The other Listed race, the Gala Stakes at 15:25, sees the reappearance of November Handicap winner Royal Line, but I suspect fast ground may well see his return delayed once again.
Under such conditions, First Nation should go close for Godolphin. With Elarqam set to give the selection 3lbs, but in my eyes a doubtful stayer at this track over the stiff 10 furlongs, the boys in blue can reverse Wolferton Stakes’ form with the last named.
If you watch that race closely again First Nation nearly fell coming out of the stalls and was badly hampered through the first quarter mile after which James Doyle wasn’t too hard on his charge. The return to this much quicker surface is also a massive plus for this son of Dubawi.
13:50 – Miracle Of Medinah
14:20 – Makyon
15:25 – First Nation
16:00 – Elector
16:35 – Emenem