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Highfield Princess, Bounce The Blues and Give Thanks are some way ahead of the rest of the field on the official ratings, with the first named 4lbs clear at the weights of the Andrew Balding charge. However, those figures are reflected in the betting and, having always swayed on the bright side of value, I reckon that the lightly raced George Baker charge PASSIONOVA can close that gap.
Of course, she will probably need a career best to be involved here, but showed last time out over the straight mile here that she is going the right way. On that occasion she only faded late on up the final climb to be beaten by 2 lengths by Don’t Tell Claire.
Let’s deal with the first factor, we know that she acts at the Berkshire track – which is a huge plus – and the drop to 7 furlongs looks just about her optimum trip having won her novice in a fairly deep race over this distance at Newmarket in June.
The fact that her underrated trainer has taken his time with this daughter of Bated Breath suggests that she has needed more time to mature and strengthen up. Based on her breeding and a fair run on deep ground at Haydock Park in a Listed race, any of the forecast rain will not prove a problem for her. A double figure price would make her a fascinating each-way play against the higher rated market leaders.
This ultra-valuable Tattersalls Auction Sales Race has once again attracted a mix of ability for the money on offer. However, down through the years, at the end of a long and hard season, we regularly see big-priced horses hitting the frame as form, to an extent, goes out of the window.
Obvious claims are held by the likely favourite and officially top rated Fearby, winner of the Dragon Stakes at Sandown and second in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood. Ed Bethell’s charge has a nice sit in stall 18 to boot and if a hard season hasn’t caught up with him, he has a market leader’s chance.
Dual all-weather winner, Ernie’s Valentine (drawn 25) and Favourite Child (26) should also go well, but up against the fence (30) it is Andrew Balding’s charge SIR HENRY COTTON that could outrun his big price this year. The son of Gutaifan has only disappointed once this season and that was last time out at Windsor, when a soft pace on fast ground was all against him.
He has quite a round action and the return to a more forgiving surface on a stiffer track with an uphill finish should be much more to his liking. You could argue that a seventh furlong would also aid his chance, but we can almost guarantee a hot pace throughout here and as long as he doesn’t get too far out of his ground, I fancy he could fire through in the closing stages to make his presence felt.
Betting can sometimes be fraught with danger, and we can all become blindsided by loyalty to a favourite horse and that may well be the case with this Royal runner again KING’S LYNN. However, I honestly believe that this represents a real chance for this smart four-year-old, who has produced his career best efforts at the Berkshire track.
You will remember his desperately unlucky run in the Group 1 King Stands Stakes at Royal Ascot when Oisin Murphy arguably had him too far back. The combination ran into trouble time-and-time-again before finishing well into a never nearer seventh spot beaten a shade over 3 lengths. It’s fair to say that it was hardly the greatest renewal of that famous contest, but it was still a commendable run.
Andrew Balding considered that his charge had hardly had a race and was encouraged him to turn the gelding out again for the Wokingham Handicap off a mark of 100. Luck was once again not on his side when he came under pressure 2-and-a-half furlongs out as he was twice denied a clear run, eventually losing out by three-quarters of a length to Rohaan.
Since then, the selection was reported to have run flat in the Group Three Hackwood Stakes at Newbury and although stepping up on that effort at Newbury again, he was still below par behind Portland Handicap winner Hurricane Ivor.
That made it three times at Newbury that he had run below par, whereas Ascot seems to suit him better and with plenty of pace on in this field he should get a nice tow into the contest with 14 runners set to line up – his two runs at Newbury came in single figure fields. The other plus will be the dig in the ground which he seems to let himself down on, and he is worth one last chance to prove those Royal Ascot runs were no fluke.
This looks a really good renewal of this Challenge Cup Heritage Handicap. with Victoria Cup winner River Nymph along with 15 other entries rated three figures or higher. On that occasion, on soft ground, high numbers dominated the race and that is well worth remembering if the forecast rains make the ground more testing than the current good to soft conditions as I pen this piece.
There can be little doubt that this event is a level above the Victoria Cup and that the third home that day, Escobar, has a big chance of reversing that form on these terms with a better run through the race in the closing stages as he had to come from some way back in May.
At a big price I thought Qaysar had a big chance off a mark of 104 having run well here before, the only time on soft ground he raced way too prominently. He is definitely best when passing beaten horses from off a strong pace. His draw in stall 14 is a possible plus as long as Rossa Ryan bides his time for as long as possible.
The former Roger Varian-trained juvenile Pierre Lapin is also of interest to me as he seems to have been somewhat revived by Adrian McGuinness, his fourth of 16 at Leopardstown last time out, being a huge step in the right direction. Ultimately though his draw in box number six has put me off to an extent, but I will still be having a saver on him at a double figure price.
But, my main bet in the race will be my lightweight selection ASCENSION. I have been waiting for this smart four-year-old to return to 7 furlongs, having for some illogical reason been campaigned over as far as 10 furlongs.
Everything seems to be in his favour here, namely 7 furlongs, a good draw (stall 16) and the strong possibility of plenty of dig in the ground which he seems to adore. Only 4lbs above his last winning mark, his chance is there for all to see if he gets a nice tow through the contest on the stands’ side and manages to find a way through the pack.
It is ironic that the quickest ground in the country will probably be at the Cleveland track (this meeting is regularly run on deep ground) and even with showers forecast we should get, at worst, possibly good to soft turf.
We know where we stand with most of these seasoned handicapper, the majority of which are probably in the pocket of the handicapper. That makes the sole three-year-old A BOY NAMED IVY in the field of mighty interest. Trained by Michael Dods, we can take it on trust that this was always going to be his end of season target since landing a three-year-old handicap over the course and distance on his seasonal debut in April.
Since then the youngster has run six times, twice below par in small fields with no speed on back here at Redcar and at Haydock. With plenty of pace on in this field and with the hope that he settles in rear under Tom Eaves, I fancy he can take care of the likes of the classy Hortzadar (good second to Irish Admiral here two outings back) and the lightly raced four-year-old Pisanello.
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