Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket Saturday – With four of the last ten renewals going to the classic generation, the top rated of this year’s 3yo entries, Tony Curtis is worth a second look. Richard Hannon’s Rock of Gibraltar colt won two of his four juvenile starts ( including at listed level) and made a satisfactory return to action when finishing fourth in a Group3 over the course in April. Taking a very strong hold he tried to make all, and not surprisingly was headed a furlong out, but kept on well to finish a respectable fourth. Not seen for another 15 weeks, he again ran well to finish 5th in a Goodwood Group3, and thirteen days later finished 4th, again at Group3 level, where he was less than 2L behind Saturday’s opponent, Master The World, who finished 2nd. Upped to 10f last time he didn’t stay but back to what looks his ideal distance he is worth considering off his mark of 105.
Johnny Murtagh won this as a jockey on Educate (runs again on Saturday) three years ago, and must now fancy his chances of saddling the winner with his rapidly improving 4yo Eddystone Rock. Trained in France, with a conspicuous lack of success, for his first eleven races, he was sold for £28,350 at Tattersalls Autumn “horses in training” sales last year, and joined the Murtagh operation. He failed to win on his first three runs for the new connections, but the penny dropped on his fourth outing, a lowly Wexford maiden in May. (9 1/2f yielding). Since then progress has been relentless, with a facile victory in a Navan handicap off 80, and an even more impressive, close second next time, off a mark of 92, to an animal who next time out very nearly defied a 12lbs higher mark in a most competitive heat. Two months later, 30 days ago, he demonstrated in impressive fashion that progress had been maintained when winning a conditions race very easily from the 104 rated filly Laganore, giving her 9lbs. Laganore certainly upheld the form when going down by the minimum distance in a competitive Gowran Park Group3 next time out. Eddystone Rock looks well treated on a mark of 101 and combined with his proven ability to stay further is one for the short list.
It is 46 years since Prince de Galles won back to back Cambridgeshire’s, and Richard Fahey’s 4yo Third Time Lucky is the latest in a long line since, attempting this elusive double. It would not come as any great surprise if his shrewd trainer pulled it off, as he gets in on Saturday off a mark only 5 lbs higher than last year, thanks largely to having only contested three races since his dramatic Short head victory in last year’s renewal. Certainly his last run, 37 days ago, in a York handicap, where despite trouble in running he was beaten less than 2L off Saturday’s mark of 100 strongly suggests that he will be a danger to all.
A nose in front of Third Time Lucky in that York handicap, was Brian Meehan’s 5yo son of Dylan Thomas, Spark Plug. He has failed to catch the judge’s eye since May 2015 but has put up some decent performances in defeat, not least when finishing a close second to the very useful Ayrad in a listed Sandown contest in July. Spark Plug seems to have regained his confidence since his traumatic fall in the 2015 Hunt Cup, and handles most ground, so with his very able trainer hitting some form is another worth considering.
John Gosden, who has won this on two previous occasions, runs the very lightly raced 5yo Sacred Act. The son of Oasis Dream was making only his fifth racecourse appearance when winning a Class3 Sandown handicap 15 days ago off a mark of 89
In his first race for 16 months. There seemed to have been a bit of over reaction on the part of the bookmaking fraternity who immediately installed him as favourite for this, but it is worth remembering, that the Sandown victory guaranteed the lowly weighted Gosden runner a place in the line up, and looks to me like a very shrewd piece of forward planning. Come Saturday evening Sacred Act may have looked a very well handicapped horse.
Sir Mark Prescott won the Cambridgeshire three times between 1988 and 2003 but has drawn a blank since. However his 4yo colt Celestial Path, 5th in last years 2000gns would have a serious shout at improving the Prescott c.v. If only slightly improving on his good run in a York handicap in July. Badly drawn and attempting to give the winner 15lbs he could be considered an unlucky loser in that strongly run heat, and is only 2lbs higher at the weekend. As excuses can be made for his two subsequent lapses he is definitely one to consider.
The James Fanshawe trained 6yo Knight Owl, running off Saturday’s mark of 92 ran a great race at Ripon last time. He was having his first run for over two months but was only beaten a Shd by course specialist Treasury Notes. This tough and rugged competitor, who is a course and distance winner wouldn’t need to improve much to be competitive and is considered.
Selection: Sacred Act
E.W. : Knight Owl Eddystone Rock