Well Graeme has left me in the unenviable position of trying to close a 20 point gap on the leader in 4 selections.
This means that I’ve either got to bag four 5-1 winners – or one 20-1 winner, in the next 2 days. As you’ll probably come to realise, with my mind–set, this really should be a no-brainer - so I’ve been doing my best to find that 20-1 winner (or bigger, if possible) !
Unlike Graeme, I have virtually no interest in handicaps. I’ve never had the quality of time required to dedicate to unravelling a 20 runner sprint handicap. Instead, I focus on conditions races: this generally means either group/listed races (on the flat) or maidens.
My interest in the racing means that I store sufficient information to be able to process and form an opinion on a group/listed race in a couple of minutes. Therefore, with races like today’s Juddmonte, I have a view on which horses I would be interested in and at what prices, almost as soon as I see the runners. The problem with these kind of races however, is that lots of other people are familiar with the runners and consequently, the prices on offer tend to be a fair reflection of a particular horses chance of winning.
Maidens, however, are a completely different ball game… There is rarely much form in the book and consequently, a lot of speculation and judgement is required. For these races, I use the knowledge and experience I’ve built up over the past 30 years. In reality, nowadays, these tend to be the races where I find the 20-1 winners…
This said, today being a Saturday, there are far more group/listed races to look at than suitable maidens. Also, with maidens, it is really difficult to judge in advance of the off, what price a particular horse will start at. Consequently, today, I have looked at a few group/listed races and made my selections from them:
This race revolves around favourite Patkai. The question is whether he will be as effective at 1m4f as he was at 2m – and also, to a lesser extent, whether his 2m form is as good as it appears.
Of the opposition, Scintillo doesn’t really look good enough, whilst Meydan City has a lot to prove. Therefore, I think the 2 to concentrate on are Top Lock and Centennial.
These 2 met earlier in the season at Sandown and Centenial came out on top by 3 lengths. A fair bit of water has gone under the bridge since then: Top Lock appears to have improved, whilst this doesn’t appear to have been the case with Centenial. However, Centenial is now double the price of Top Lock, who has 3 lengths to make up with him of that piece of form. For those reasons, and the doubt over Patkai, Centenial has to be the bet at around 11-1.
The horse that catches my eye in this race is Petara Bay. Petara Bay is not quite top class over 1m4f - so presumably connections are stepping him up in distance in the hope he can bridge that gap (and make races like the Irish St. Leger, future options for him). The opposition doesn’t look that strong, with Tungsten Strike looking the toughest opponent. However, Tungsten Strike needs firm ground to be at his best (as well as an uncontested lead). If Petara Bay’s stamina holds out, he should have too much class and at 6-1, rates a fair bet.
The betting suggests that Winker Watson is the horse to beat here and whilst he undoubtedly has ability/potential, I’m not so sure… One reading of his last race form is that he finished fourth in the Group 1 Sussex stakes – another reading is that he only beat 2 home (his out of form stable mate and a pacemaker). He was off for a long time after last year’s July cup and imo has not proved himself fully since his return.
At the price, I’m happy to swerve him and go instead for Balthazaars Gift. In truth, this horse wouldn’t have a lot of ground to make up on a peak form Winker Watson, so at 12-1 he’s definitely a value call.
Through Henrythenavigator, Cat Junior is about 3 lengths inferior to New Approach. When he finished fourth behind Henry in the St.James Palace stakes, Cat Junior was running for only the third time in his life. He would therefore appear to have scope for improvement (which seemed to be borne out by his subsequent run in France behind Tamayuz). Add to this the fact that his trainer, Brian Meehan, believes he will be a better horse over 10 furlongs than he is over 8 and you have a good bet to beat New Approach. Defeating Duke of Marmalade my be a different matter (unless you take his form line with Papal Bull literally !) – but at odds of 50-1, he’s worth a speculative punt (EW or place only for the faint hearted !)
The going is likely to be hock deep at the Curragh. One horse that will relish this is Sophocles. He ran second in the Cheltenham Champion bumper, the year before last and showed that he’s transferred a fair amount of that ability to the flat, with a very comfortable win last time. The opposition today is not that strong and he’s still got improvement in him. At 7-1 he’s a good bet.
There are a couple of cracking races at Windsor this evening: this race and the 6:50. For a ‘value’ bet, I’m plumping for Supersonic Dave in this race. The horse is reasonably unexposed and an experiment to try him at longer trips the last twice hasn’t really worked. He’s dropped back in distance today and in the hope that he can pick up from his first run of the campaign (behind McArthur at Chester) he’s the selection at 16-1.
Deciding which horses to use for the competition has been tricky. My best bet from the above is probably Sophocles in Ireland – but even a win from him will not see Graeme making it to the top of the leader board. However, I will stick with that one (as I’ve still got tomorrow !) but also take Cat Junior. If this wins, it’s sure to be at a big enough price – and I’ve certainly seen stranger results over the years…!
The selections are therefore:
Cat Junior 3:35 Newmarket
Sophocles 2:30 Curragh