Bet365 Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket (Rowley) Saturday

rowley course oddsWith a pot of just under £100,000 for the winner, and with a maximum field of 35 closely handicapped horses, the race, up the straight 9f of Newmarket’s Rowley course,  is always run with the choke out, putting a premium on stamina, and is often won by an animal that stays beyond 9f. Inevitably, in a race like The Cambridgeshire, there have been the occasional big price winners, but in the main, the victors have not gone unconsidered, and 15 of the last 20 successful animals have returned an SP of 16/1 or less.

Three year olds have won 2 of the last 4 renewals, and two from the Classic generation, Good Birthday and Desert Icon, who fought out the finish of the 10f William Hill Silver Cup Handicap at Beverly 29 days ago, certainly demonstrated their ability to stay beyond 9f. In a strongly run heat, the Andrew Balding trained Good Birthday, despite a very tardy start, prevailed by 1/2L. He made good headway over 2f out, and bravely squeezed through on the inner entering the final furlong, and collared the Willie Haggas trained, Desert Icon, in the last 50 yards. The runner up meets Good Birthday on 2lbs better terms on Saturday, so it should be close between them, but that said, the Balding horse looks to have the better profile for a race like The Cambridgeshire. A winner of 3 of his 8 starts, he has performed with credit in the three large field handicaps he has contested, and the Beverly contest came after a 50 day break. There is plenty of rain in the forecast so the  son of the French Stallion, Dabirism’s, proven ability on soft ground, could prove a very definite plus. With a lovely racing weight of 8-8, he will have plenty of assistance from the saddle in the shape of Champion Elect, Oisin Murphy, and he certainly looks one for the short list.

Another 3yo that fits the bill on the stamina front, is Roger Varian’s Son Of Dark Angel, Fifth Position. He has only won once from his 5 starts, but has performed creditably in his last three races, including last time, when finishing 5th in a Sandown Group3, 58 days ago. 4 weeks prior to that, racing over 10f, he had finished 5th, 3 1/4L behind the talented Elarqam in a Listed contest at the same venue. There is plenty of stamina on the distaff side of his pedigree as his dam won over 1m7f, and she has bred a 3 mile Irish Chase winner. However, despite his top connections, his overall profile doesn’t convince as a potential Cambridgeshire winner.

Hughie Morrison won The Cambridgeshire 10 years ago with the 6yo Supaseus, and must be hopeful of landing a second with his very progressive 3yo, Le Don De Vie. A  son of top class US turf winner, Leroidesanimaux, he has won 3 of his 7 starts, including last time, when winning a 10f Goodwood Class2 Handicap, 5 weeks ago. Always travelling well within himself, he stayed on to win very comfortably from the 96 rated Great Example. Clearly very progressive he races on Saturday off a mark of 101, 20lbs higher than he was at the start of the season, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him end the year on a still higher mark.

John Gosden has won The Cambridgeshire 4 times, and will be hoping for further success with one of his 2 contenders this year, Star Of Bengal or Lord North. The former, a 4yo son of Oasis Dream, has won 2 of his 6 starts, both successes coming on The AW. He has yet to win on turf and there wasn’t a lot of encouragement that he was going to break his duck soon, when finishing last of 5 in a Windsor Group3 36 days ago. However he does stay 10f well on The AW, and at the time of writing is the chosen ride of Frankie Dettori.

Three of Gosden’s previous winners were from the Classic generation, which makes his second contender, the 3yo, Lord North, more interesting . The son of Dubawi has won 2 of his 4 starts and looked as if he would be suited by further when a staying on 2nd in a 1mile Ascot Handicap following a 106 day break, 23 days ago. There are positive messages from his pedigree too, as his dam stayed a mile, his half brother, Chronicles, won over 10f, and his exceptional sire, Dubawi, gets plenty of top class middle distance winners.

jeds okeefe oddsThe Jed O’Keefe (pictured) trained 4yo,Jazeel, won last year’s consolation race, (The Silver Cambridgeshire) and again showed his liking for the track when going down by 1/2L over course and distance on his reappearance this year. He ran another excellent race in July, going down by 1/2L, to the Good yardstick Fayez at Goodwood, and while totally genuine, he has been done no favours by the Handicapper, and has to race off a 3 lbs higher mark on Saturday. However with that master tactician, Jamie Spencer, doing the steering, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him pull off yet another one of those “miracle finishes” for which he is rightly so famous, and one can just imagine him putting Jazeel’s head on the line where it matters.

One trainer who would be quite happy to see the rain arrive at Headquarters is Aidan O’Brien, as his contender, Amedeo Modigliani, revelled in soft conditions when landing his sole success to date, a Galway Maiden by 5 1/2L on soft in August 2018. A 4yo, son of the great Galileo, he has only raced 4 times and hasn’t been seen since finishing 4th, 1 3/4L behind the now 107 rated Imaging at Leopardstown in April. His mark of 98 on Saturday looks pretty fair and if taking up the engagement, (also entered in The Joel Stakes on Friday) looks good value at the generous looking odds of 20/1 available at the time of writing.

Selection : Good Birthday

EW.           : Amedeo Modigliani,  Jazeel

John Gray

William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (Handicap) 6f Saturday

ayr gold cupWith only 3 “Jollies” obliging in the past 40 years, one could be forgiven for thinking that The Ayr Gold Cup isn’t a particularly punter friendly heat, but the fact that 2 of the 3 (including last year’s dead heating favourite, the first Irish trained winner of the race, Son Of Rest) have come in the last 4 years, gives a rather different impression, and has to make the current market leader, Buffer Zone, of particular interest.

The 4yo son of the high class sprinter, Bated Breath, spent his first two seasons with Beckhampton handler, Roger Charlton, winning 2 of his 7 starts and left Wiltshire with a Handicap rating of 86. Transferred to the Co Meath yard of the talented, Ger Lyons last May, the 4yo has made rapid progress in his 4 runs for his new stables, and following an impressive victory last Sunday, in a valuable 24 runner, 6f Curragh Handicap, off a mark of 99, looks very well treated with just a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday. A rapidly improving type, (well entered up in Group races) who thrives in  these big field handicaps, he will make them all go at the weekend if fully recovered from last Sunday’s exertions, and must have bright prospects of becoming the second challenger from across The Irish Sea, to score in the long history of the race.

With 4 wins in the race, Kevin Ryan has the outstanding record in the contest, and he will be hoping to improve it further with his well handicapped 4yo, Hey Jonesy. The son of Excelebration’s strike rate of 1/16 is hardly impressive, but he has done most of his racing at listed/Group level, generally acquitting himself well, and has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He put in a particularly good effort in a Haydock Conditions event, (7f Gd-Sft) in July going down by 1/2L to the now 107 rated Marie’s Diamond,
(Rec 7 lbs). He didn’t seem to get home over Ascot’s stiff 7f eight days later and his shrewd handler has put him on the easy list for the past 8 weeks. Racing off an attractive mark of 103 on Saturday, and back over his best trip, he will strip, one of the freshest horses in the field. Coming from a yard going great guns at the moment and with such a good record in the race, he looks good value at his current odds of 25/1.

David O’Meara, who won with the 6yo, Louis The Pious 5 years ago, is mob handed at the time of writing, and the one that stands out for me is the very consistent 5yo son of Lope De Vega, Summerghand. Last time out he ran his usual game race, where despite being drawn on the wrong side, he kept on strongly to finish 2nd to Dakota Gold in Ripons Great St Wilfrid Handicap. The Handicapper has been unrelenting and raised him another 2 lbs for Saturday, but while his lack of generosity tempers confidence, Summerghand is one of those tough types who will be in his element in a race like Saturday’s, and it will not surprise to see him involved at the business end.

The Paul Cole trained 6yo, Baron Bolt, who shared the spoils with Son Of Rest in last year’s renewal, is attempting to become the first back to back winner of The Ayr Gold Cup since Heronslea in 1931. The omens aren’t exactly propitious however as it looks unlikely that he will get the testing conditions that seemed to suit so well last year, and his current form isn’t nearly as good as last term. However, as a result he is 6lbs lower, and presumably has been trained all season, targeting a repeat, so is worth bearing in mind, particularly if the rains arrive.

Andrew Balding has won this twice, and fields an interesting contender in the ex Richard Fahey trained Don Juan Triumphant. Now a 6yo, he was trained for his first two seasons by The Malton Maestro, and as a juvenile, he not only won an Ayr nursery over course and distance, but also landed a Group2 at Maison-Laffite, and ran with credit in a 7f St Cloud Group1. Failing to build on his excellent 2yo career at three, he moved to Kingsclere where he has won only 2 of his 19 starts for Mr Balding. However he has run some excellent races in defeat including a good 3rd of 14 in last October’s Group1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot, and was a good 2nd to top sprinter, Brando, at Hamilton in June. Another who is best with some cut, he would be worth considering particularly if we get some rain. An entire horse, he is owned by the powerful King Power Racing Co, who presumably hope to stand the well bred son of Dream Ahead as a stallion, and a victory on Saturday wouldn’t go amiss on his CV.

The Sir Michael Stoute trained 3yo, Alkaraama will need quite a few above him in the handicap to come out to get a run but if he does he could be interesting. A son of the top class American Stallion War Front, he was unraced as a juvenile but has looked progressive in his 3yo career, winning three of his six starts. Despite being beaten last time, he took a further step forward, finishing 2nd to another upwardly mobile  3yo, Swindler. He was conceding 4lbs to the 3/4L winner and had Saturday’s opponent, Open Wide, whom he meets on 5 lbs better terms on Saturday a head back in third.

Selection. : Buffer Zone

EW.             : Summerghand  Hey Jonesy

John Gray

William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group1) 1m 61/2f Doncaster Saturday

doncaster racesDoncaster stages the final Classic of the British racing season on Saturday, and historically, York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes has been the best guide. Run over 1m4f at The Ebor Meeting, 13 winners of the Group2 event have gone on to Doncaster glory starting with Premonition who landed the double in 1953. Saturday’s hot favourite, the John Gosden trained, Logician, will be hoping to extend the sequence, but caution is advised as it is 12 years since the double has been landed, (by Lucarno, also trained by Gosden) and the only animal to have even run in The York race, and collected at Doncaster since, was last year’s Hero, Kew Gardens, (Finished 3rd at York). That said, Mr Gosden has won Doncaster’s Blue Riband on 4 occasions so certainly knows what is required and logician has plenty to recommend him.

The son of Frankel, unraced as a 2yo, began his career at a pretty low level, in a Class4 10f Newbury Maiden in May, which he won with ease, and followed up with 2 facile Handicap victories over 10 and 12 furlongs. Taking a huge step up in Class for the Great Voltigeur, he justified his short price of 10/11, keeping on strongly to beat the 110 rated, Ballydoyle hope, Constantinople by 1 3/4L. If he is as effective over Saturday’s extra 2 1/2f, he must have a great chance of giving Mr Gosden a 5th win in the Classic, but it’s worth remembering that The St Leger is all about stamina, and there are mixed messages coming from Logician’s pedigree. He is out of the Daylami mare Scuffle, whose dam never raced beyond 7f, and his full brother, Collide failed to stay on his only attempt at 14f. The furthest any of his other 3 half siblings have won over is 9 1/2 f so breeding would, at the very least, raise questions about the Frankel colts ability to grind it out up Doncaster’s long unforgiving strait on Saturday.

Having finished a close 3rd to Stradivarius and Dee Ex Bee in York’s 2mile Lonsdale Cup 22 days ago there are no stamina doubts about Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt
Il Paradiso, and beautifully bred, he is out of the Danehill Dancer mare, Famous, whose mother, Starlight Dreams, is the Dam Of the top class, Mastercraftsman. Prior to York he had hacked up by 12L in a 2m Curragh Handicap and he handles soft ground so any rain would have to help his chances.

Besides Il Paradiso, the Ballydoyle yard are mob handed at the time of writing, but Derby 5th, Sir Dragonet, (only beaten 3/4L and ridden by Ryan Moore) looks by far the most likely of them. Unraced as a 2yo, he has only run 4 times, and won his first two in the style of a stayer, cruising up in a 12 1/2f Tipperary Maiden in April, and then making short work of some decent animals in the 12 1/2f (Gd-Sft) Group3 Chester Vase, where he had Saturday’s opponents, Norway and Dashing Willoughby 8L and 3/4L back in 2nd and 3rd. Connections were perfectly happy with his 4th in a 10f Curragh Group 3 following a 76 day break 4 weeks ago and report him in fine fettle for Saturday’s Heat. He is by the St Leger runner up Camelot and his grand dam was a daughter of the great Urban Sea, (Dam of Galileo and Sea The Stars) so there are plenty of positives there. It will be interesting to see if Ryan chooses to take the ride again and if he does,take the hint!

The all conquering Middleham yard of training Maestro, Mark Johnston, will be hoping to land a first St Leger with their improving son of Australia, Sir Ron Priestley, and the style in which he won Goodwood’s 14f March Stakes 3 weeks ago, suggests that it may not be a forlorn one. Making all, under a canny ride from Saturday’s excellent pilot, Franny Norton, he stayed on strongly to win by 1 1/2L from Promissory with the 105 rated Manuela De Vega, (rec3lbs) another 1 1/2L back in 3rd. It has been a long time between drinks as far as Classics are concerned for such a top trainer, as Mr Johnston,
(Attraction 1000gns 2004 and Mr Baileys 2000gns 1994) and Im sure that most racing fans would agree that a third success is long overdue.

The Martyn Meade trained Technician improved for the step up in trip when taking Newbury’s 13f Geoffrey Freer Stakes 4 weeks ago in eye catching fashion. The son of Mastercraftsman stayed on well to beat the 113 rated favourite Morando on soft ground and would be worth considering if similar conditions prevail at the weekend.

Selection  : Sir Dragonet

EW.            : Sir Ron Priestley

John Gray

Betfair Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

haydock betfairThe Merseyside track hosts the only Group1 action anywhere in Britain or Ireland this weekend and Wiltshire trainer, Martyn Meade, will be hoping that his son of Showcasing, Advertise, can continue the good recent record of The Classic Generation
(3yo’s have won 4 of the last 5 renewals) in Saturday’s heat.

He has won 5 of his 9 starts and was scoring at the top level for the third time when landing Deauville’s Prix Maurice De Gheest, (6 1/2f Good) 34 days ago. Finishing strongly, he held on to win by a head from Saturday’s opponent, Brando. Mind you, the runner up kept on really well, and thanks to the fluctuating weight for age scale, is 2lbs better off on Saturday. Advertise’s other Group1 successes came in The Phoenix Stakes, (6f Gd Aug 2018) and Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (6f Gd-Sft) in June. The form of The Phoenix Stakes hasn’t worked out with the runner up, So Perfect, (Btn 1/2L) only managing to win a Naas Group3 in his next 8 races. There are mixed messages coming from The Commonwealth Cup, with the well beaten 4th, Ten Soverigns (Btn 2 3/4L), dramatically reversing the form next time out, coming
home in most impressive fashion, to land Newmarket’s Group1 July Cup, where he had Advertise 2 3/4L back in second.

The Sprint Cup is one of the few top level events to elude The Master of Ballydoyle,
and Aidan will be hoping that the poor run of Ten Soverigns, following that impressive victory at Newmarket, in York’s 5f Nunthorpe Stakes last time, was either down to the drop in trip, or as is quite often the case at York, an inability to handle the surface on The Knavesmire. If he turns up in the same form as at Newmarket, and handles the likely soft ground, (his dam won on heavy) he might just fill that gap in the O’Brien CV.

Ballydoyle’s second string, the 3yo filly, Fairyland, has been disappointing since winning last year’s Chevely Park Stakes last Autumn, but it’s possible that this is her time of year, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see a big run from this well bred daughter of Kodiac.

michael stoute darleyVeteran handler, Sir Michael Stoute has won The Sprint Cup twice, but that was way back in 1986 and 1987. He runs the late developing 5yo entire, Dream Of Dreams, who has yet to score at the top level, but looked unlucky not to break his duck in Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes in June. Finishing best of all, he was only beaten by a rapidly diminishing head, by the 123 rated Blue Point, and he was in front a stride past the post. The son of Dream Ahead was a big disappointment in The July Cup, finishing out the back, but he is clearly a difficult horse to get right, and if Sir Michael, who does so well with these late maturing types, has him at his peak, he must have a serious chance of landing a belated third victory for the master of Freemason Lodge.

Brando’s good run in The Prix Maurice De Gheest has been referred to above, and with plenty of rain about, the son of Pivotal’s chance, can only be enhanced. Trained by the talented Yorkshire trainer, Kevin Ryan, who is no stranger to top level success, Brando was only beaten 1/2L by The Tin Man (disappointing since) in last year’s renewal on heavy ground, and has won three times on soft. As demonstrated by that good run at Deauville, he is clearly as good as ever, and if the ground does turn testing has to be worth considering.

img_7619Kevin (pictured) also runs the upwardly mobile 3yo, Hello Youmzain who has won 3 of his 6 starts, and emphasised his soft ground credentials when winning a Maison-Laffitte Group2 last Autumn on holding ground. He won a Group2 over course and distance, (6f Gd-Fm) in May, and last time finished 3rd to Advertise in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup. Further improvement is required, but the son of Kodiac has a progressive profile, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him involved.

The Charlie Hills trained son of Dark Angel, Khaadem, has won 4 of his 7 starts, and the 3yo looked a pretty serious animal when hosing up in Goodwood’s Stewards Cup 5 weeks ago. Surprisingly for such an inexperienced animal, he was backed as if defeat was out of the question, and justified the confidence, winning in the style of a top class Group horse. Saturday presents a very different test but khaadem looks a really progressive type and has to be on any shortlist, and I’m sure Charlie would love to emulate Dad, Barry, who won with Red Club in 2007.

The James Tate trained Invincible Army seems to be the forgotten runner in the race. He looked a horse going places when cruising up in a York Group2 in the Spring but disappointed in the Diamond Jubilee and The Prix Maurice De Gheest on Good/ Firm
and Good ground. However he did easily win a Group3 on Newcastle’s AW in between, and it’s quite possible that a return to easier conditions could spark a revival.

Selection   : Dream Of Dreams

EW.             : Brando

John Gray