Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket Tips (Row) Saturday

Sadly, last week’s Ayr Gold Cup was lost to the weather, but happily it has been reincarnated as the 32Red Gold Cup, albeit with a maximum of only seventeen runners, and will be run at Haydock Park on Saturday. I would be perfectly happy that both of last week’s selections, Shanghai Glory and Johnny Barnes, should still have decent chances at the rescheduled venue, but perhaps the Merseyside track will favour the former.

Saturday also sees the 136th renewal of the first leg of the Autumn Double, The Cambridgeshire Handicap, and with the great open spaces of Newmarket Heath at their disposal a maximum field of 35 can be accommodated. Usually run with the throttle full out from flagfall, the contest is invariably won by an animal with a high cruising speed, and has the stamina to last every last inch of the punishing Rowley course, so not surprisingly it is often won by a contender with proven form over further than 9 furlongs. Weight as always is a very significant factor with only six animals in the last forty years winning with more than 9-4 in the plate. Indeed five of the last seven winners carried 8-9 or less. With good recent form a prerequisite, and a proven track record over a straight course, a definite positive, last week’s Newbury winner Brorocco certainly fulfils plenty of the necessary criteria.

Trained by Andrew Balding (pictured) the 4yo son of Shirocco, travelled supremely well in midfield in the 10f Newbury contest, until pilot David Probert asked him to quicken two furlongs out, and he came with a very smooth run to win very comfortably indeed from co/favourite Fidaawy. He is only 4lbs higher on Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 8-7, and so long as the ground doesn’t go against him, (has never won on anything softer than good) must have a great chance.

Should conditions deteriorate Andrew’s other runner, Naval Warfare shouldn’t be too inconvenienced. The 3yo son of Born To Sea thrived on the good/soft ground when winning a 1mile Class2 Newmarket Handicap on the July course in August off a mark of 92, and again looked a useful individual, who needed further, when beaten less than a length in a 1m Sandown Listed race ten days ago. He races on Saturday off 93 giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and is worth considering particularly if conditions deteriorate.

The David Menuisier trained Thundering Blue has gone up 17lbs on official figures over his last three races, and judging by the way he stormed home in the last hundred yards at Sandown four weeks ago there is probably plenty more to come from the 4yo son of Exchange Rate. A slight concern would be that he seemed to need all of the 10f at Sandown but this should be negated by the likely greater pace and softer ground on Saturday. He races off 93 at the weekend only 6lbs higher than Sandown, giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and looks a worthy favourite.

The David Simcock trained 3yo, Bless Him, won the Britannia Stakes over Ascot’s straight mile in June, but wasn’t seen again until contesting a Goodwood Group3 over an inadequate 7f where he made little impact, five weeks ago. However the colt’s win at the Royal meeting was impressive, and as a son of Sea The Stars out of a Refuse To Bend mare, the extra furlong on Saturday May well bring further improvement, and even on a 10lbs higher mark than Ascot is worth considering.

The willie Haggas trained 3yo, Novoman won a 10f York Handicap off a mark of 86 in July, and six weeks later won a 10 1/2f Goodwood Handicap off an 8lbs higher mark. Clearly progressive the son of Sir Prancealot doesn’t look badly treated off a five pounds higher mark and could get involved.

The Michael Appleby trained Big Country put up a very solid performance when running the talented Ballet Concerto To 3/4L in a Twenty runner York handicap in July as the winner won his next two races, both at Group3 level. Very well bred, by High Chaparral out of a Danehill mare he could make his presence felt.

Unraced as a 2yo, The Sir Michael Stoute trained El Hayem won his maiden over Doncaster’s straight mile on his second racecourse appearance as a 3yo, at odds of 25/1, and has put up some decent handicap performances including beating that useful yardstick, GM Hopkins by a neck off a mark of 92 in July (1m). He was only fifth last time in a York handicap (1m) but certainly didn’t help his cause by dwelling in the stalls at the start. Given plenty of time by his canny trainer he looks well treated on a mark of 96 giving him a racing weight of 8-10 and is well worth considering.

Selection: Brorocco

E.W. : Thundering Blue

John Gray

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William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Tips (Handicap) Ayr Saturday

Scotland’s richest flat race, The Ayr Gold Cup, takes centre stage on Saturday. It has been won by some very high class animals, by no means the least of whom, was that marvellous mare Lochsong, who won in 1992. She won The Cartier Award as top European sprinter twice and was voted European horse of the year in 1993. Last years renewal saw the Kevin Ryan trained Brando become the highest rated animal to win in the history of the event, and he has gone on to victory at the top level this term, taking the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f at Deauville. Always run at a scorching pace on a tough track, horses need to see out every yard of the trip, and an ability to win over further, particularly if the going turns testing, is a serious asset. With the ground currently described as soft, and plenty of rain in the forecast, any contenders who do stay beyond 6f are worthy of particular attention, and one that catches the eye is John Gosden’s Johnny Barnes.

Largely campaigned over 7f, he has never won at Saturday’s distance, but did catch the eye in last year’s renewal when, despite suffering interference on at least two occasions, he finished 8th, 4 1/2L behind Brando. Considering it was his first run for three months that was a pretty commendable effort. His win four weeks ago from Burnt Sugar over 7f at Goodwood should have teed him up nicely for Saturday, particularly as the runner up went on to land a valuable Leopardstown handicap, and the fifth horse home that day, Masham, collected a £52,000 prize next time out. As an entire son of Acclamation out of a Danehill mare, hopes of a stud career may still be entertained for this well bred animal, and a win on Saturday would certainly embellish, what to date is a pretty pedestrian looking c.v.

The Richard Fahey trained Rene Mathis won that same 7f Goodwood handicap as Johnny Barnes, two years ago, and he went on to finish 7th, beaten 2 1/2L (good) in that years Gold Cup. The 7yo hasn’t been seen since winning over 7f at Thirsk in April, and hasn’t won over Saturday’s trip since his 3yo days, but did give the talented Muthmir a race when finishing 3rd to him over 6f at York in 2014. He can go well after a break and handles soft ground, so could get involved at a rewarding price.

The other Fahey runner that catches the eye, is the 6yo Withernsea. Another who has been campaigned over further and is well suited by testing ground, he has been in great form in his last three races, and ran particularly well in that valuable Leopardstown heat won by Burnt Sugar last time. Given far too conservative a ride, he finished strongly to get third, but could well have gone much closer. If conditions deteriorate one to note!

Following two excellent efforts, in The Stewards Cup at Goodwood, and The Great St Wilfred handicap at Ripon, the Charlie Hills trained Shanghai Glory certainly deserves to win one of these big sprint handicaps. The 4yo son of Exceed and Excel finished a close 5th in The Stewards Cup where pilot Fran Berry felt they should have won. In The Great St Wilfred, where trainer Hills said the horse hated the track, he finished an excellent 3rd despite racing away from the first two. He is only two pounds higher on Saturday, thrives on soft ground and has Jamie Spenser in the plate, so looks a worthy favourite.

The Andrew Balding trained 4yo, Donjuan Triumphant had some cracking form as a 2yo, winning a Maison- Laffite Group2 by 5 1/2L and finishing a close 4th in a Saint-Cloud Group1. He didn’t go backwards last year either, finishing second in the Group1 6 1/2f Prix Maurice de Gheest. He moved from the Richard Fahey yard in April and has taken time to find his feet, but got his head in front sixteen days ago in a conditions race at Haydock. He has a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday for that win, but as he has gone up 7lbs in future handicaps he is effectively 2lbs well in. A course and distance winner, he handles easy ground and stays 7f. One for the shortlist!

The David O’Meara trained 6yo, Intisaab, is another course and distance winner who stays further, and ran a really promising race four weeks ago when going down by a short head and a head to the talented Gifted Master and Steady Pace (6f Newmarket) off a mark of 107. Racing off the same mark, he meets the winner on 5lbs better terms at the weekend, and is capable of making his presence felt, but probably wouldn’t want very soft ground.

Selection : Johnny Barnes

E.W. : Shanghai Glory

John Gray

William Hill St Leger Tips (Group1) 1m6f132yds Doncaster Saturday

The St Leger, the oldest of the English Classics, was first run in 1776, but it didn’t reach it’s present venue on Town Moor until two years later. It was named for a local politician and soldier, Anthony St Leger and is the third leg of the Triple crown, a feat last completed by the immortal Nijinsky (pictured) in 1970. It’s a fair bet that none of Saturday’s handlers are going to get near the sixteen winners sent out by John Scott between 1827 and 1862 although John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien’s four previous victories is a fair tally. The son of the latter, Joseph O’Brien is attempting to emulate the feat of the great Harry Wragg and become the only man to both ride and train a St Leger Winner. Harry, also known as “The Head Waiter” for his ability to put a horses nose in front where it mattered, won on Sandwich in 1931 and trained Intermezzo to collect the prize in 1969. The young O’Brien rode Leading light to victory in 2013 and is hoping to bring off the elusive double on Rekindling on Saturday.

Trained as a two year old by the now retired David Watchman, he made a promising start to his three year old career when beating Douglas Macarthur in a Leopardstown Group3 (10f) in April, and then ran a reasonable race to finish fourth in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes. He was out the back in the Derby but showed that staying was his game when beating last year’s Irish St Leger winner, Wicklow Brave in a Group2 over fourteen furlongs in his next race. Last time, he finished second to the great Order of St George, (14f Curragh Aug19 yielding) albeit at a respectable distance of 4 3/4L. He needs to improve to trouble the principals on Saturday but in the hands of the talented O’Brien it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if he did.

Dad, Aidan’s, best chance of adding to his tally of four would seem to lie with his Irish Derby hero, Capri. He put up a decent performance when finishing 6th in The Epsom Derby but then emphatically reversed the form with the Epsom 3rd, Cracksman, when beating him by a neck in The Irish Derby. Capri is by Galileo, whose progeny generally stay well, out of the French mare, Dialafara, who only raced the once, (unsuccessfully) but is quite stoutly bred. There can be no guarantees about Capri’s ability to stay Saturday’s trip, but he was clearly much better suited by the galloping nature of the track at the Curragh, and his genius of a trainer certainly knows what is required.

The Roger Varian trained Defoe, is undefeated in all of his four races this term, and the further he has gone the better he has looked. He confirmed that he was a high class stayer in the making when taking the 1m5 1/2f Group3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last time by 3/4L from the good yardstick Wall Of Fire. By the strong influence for Stamina Dalakhani, out of the Pivotal mare Dulkashe, who won over 10f he should find Saturday’s trip ideal and as soft ground won’t pose any problems, is well worth considering.

Sir Michael Stoute won with Conduit in 2008, and following the impressive win of his contender, Crystal Ocean, in The Gordon Stakes at Goodwood (1m4f soft) must be harbouring strong hopes of landing another. Backward and immature, he did really well to get within 1 3/4L of Permian in the Dante stakes last May, and there was nothing wrong with his third to the same animal in the King Edward V11 Stakes at Royal Ascot. By Sea The Stars, whose progeny stay well out of the Mark Of Esteem Mare, Crystal Star, who was rated 104 at her best. She won twice and was placed second in a Newbury Group3 all over 7f so wouldn’t be the most likely dam of a St Leger winner. However the manner of Crystal Ocean’s Goodwood win suggests that this backward colt is now beginning to reach his full potential, and as his erstwhile stable companion, Conduit, brought off the Gordon Stakes/ St Leger double for the yard in 2008 we may well see history repeat itself.

Only a length behind Crystal Ocean in The King Edward V11 Stakes at Royal Ascot, Brian Meehan’s Raheen House took another step forward next time when winning The Bahrain Trophy, a 1m5f Newmarket Group3 by a length from Desert Skyline. The race was won by Masked Marvel prior to his St Leger win in 2012, and last year’s Doncaster hero, Harbour Law finished fourth in the same heat. Following his win trainer Meehan decided to by pass The Great Voltigeur and go straight to the St Leger. By Sea The Stars out of a Monsun mare, he is certainly bred for the job and as he handles soft ground is another to consider.

John Gosden is hoping to land his fifth St Leger with Stradivarius, and as the winner of the Group1 Goodwood Cup over two miles last time, there are absolutely no doubts about his stamina for Saturday’s test. He won at Goodwood from the redoubtable Big Orange with a strong staying performance, all the more meritorious, as he was the first of the classic generation to win since John Dunlop’s Lucky Moon came home in front in 1990. He had previously won the 1m6f Queen’s Vase at The Royal Meeting, where he quickened up nicely to collar Saturday’s opponent, Count Octave in the shadow of the post. By Sea The Stars out of the Bering mare, Private Life, stamina is assured but the only slight reservation I would have is that Stradivarius has yet to race on a testing surface, and his half brother, Rembrandt Van Rijn didn’t seem to perform on it.

Selection : Defoe

E.W. : Rekindling

John Gray

Racing Tips: 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

The Oddsguru’s E.W. selection, Golden Birthday, put up a really impressive front running performance to take last Saturday’s Quadpot Handicap Hurdle at Newton Abbot. He was six pounds higher than when winning very easily at the same venue over shorter a month earlier, and demonstrated an abundance of stamina. He is a half brother to the ill fated, multiple Grade1 winning Golden Silver, who, trained by Willie Mullins, did all his racing over fences at around two miles. Presumably Harry Fry’s exciting six year old’s long term career, with his proven stamina, will be in the staying chase department, but in the meantime he could well pick up another similar contest over the smaller obstacles, if getting his preferred good ground. Haydock Park’s Group1 Sprint Cup on Saturday provides a test at the other end of the racing spectrum and at the time of writing it is Clive Cox’s talented three year old, Harry Angel, that heads the market.

The son of Dark Angel was making only is fifth racecourse appearance when beaten 3/4L by Caravaggio in the Group1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but emphatically turned the form around, twenty three days later when stylishly taking the Group1 July Cup at Headquarters. While winners of the Newmarket Group1 haven’t the best of records in Haydock’s feature, it’s worth noting that Harry Angel’s CV includes a Group2 successs(course record) over course and distance in the Sandy Lane Stakes last May. With plenty of rain about his win on an easy surface in last year’s Group2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury could also prove relevant.

Another who shouldn’t be inconvenienced by soft ground is the Willie Haggas trained Tasleet as he hosed up in The Group2 Duke of York Stakes on soft ground in May, beating Saturday’s opponent Magical Memory by 2 1/2L. He was a tad unlucky to lose out by a neck to The Tin Man in the Group1 Golden Jubilee Stakes next time, and most recently was a big disappointment when finishing tenth in The July Cup. However excuses can be made as he took a fierce hold in a race lacking pace in the early stages. With conditions likely to be in his favour at the weekend he is definitely worth considering.

Another who will handle soft ground is last year’s Ayr Gold Cup winner, Brando. Always considered a potential Group1 horse by his very talented trainer, Kevin Ryan (pictured above) he showed that he was heading in the right direction when winning a Newmarket Group3 on his reappearance in April. He was sent off the 5/2fav for the Duke of York the following month but unfortunately bled and finished twelfth. Considering the travails of the yard, following a stable wide infection with the dreadful Equine Herpes Virus, it was a superb effort by an unready Brando to finish third,(1 3/4L behind Harry Angel) in The July Cup, nearly nine weeks later. The son of Pivotal was able to show his true colours three weeks later, when winning the 6 1/2f Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. A course and distance winner on soft ground Brando looks as if he is still improving, and we may not yet have seen the best of him.

Last years Gimcrack winner and Dewhurst third, Blue point made a winning reappearance, beating Harry Angel by 1 1/2L in May, but was 1/2L behind the Cox horse seven weeks later in The Commonwealth Cup when finishing third. The son of Shamardal found the ground too firm that day and returned jarred up. He hasn’t been seen since but is an animal who goes well after a break so is not one to lightly dismiss, particularly if the weather improves.

Having won the 2012 renewal with Society Rock, James Fanshawe knows what is required, and tries again with last year’s runner up The Tin Man. Twice a winner at the top grade, he was well beaten on his reappearance in The Duke of York but had clearly benefited from the run when winning The Diamond Jubilee Stakes five weeks later. Failing to get any cover from his outside draw in the July Cup he was well beaten, but that second to the flying filly Quiet Reflection on soft ground in last year’s race is surely significant, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Mr Fanshawe landed his second Sprint Cup with this son of Equiano.

The Charlie Hills trained Magical Memory was third in a blanket finish for the 2015 renewal, but was out with the washing last year. He has put in some decent efforts this term including a course and distance win in July and a Group3 success at Newbury. He has yet to break through at the top level but trainer Hills is quite hopeful of his chances, and you never know, it may be a case of third time lucky.

Selection: Brando

E.W. : Tasleet

John Gray