Moët and Chandon International Stakes Class2 Handicap 7f Ascot

ascot moetI hope many of you were on last week’s selection, Casablanca Mix, (odds of 10/1 generally available when first advised) who was one of 4 winners for Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, landing a 103/1 accumulator. The son of Shirocco was always travelling well within himself, and when he took it up at the 3rd last the result was never in doubt. The Handicapper has raised him 8lbs which seems fair, and the 7yo is definitely one to keep on the right side of this Summer and Autumn. Saturday’s International over 7f up the straight course at Ascot, presents an entirely different challenge, but with a pot of £93,375 for the winner, and a possible field of 29 runners, we can be pretty sure that whoever wins, he or she will have earned their corn. Previous form over Ascot’s straight course is always a positive, and one with an excellent record is last year’s 3rd, Ripp Orf.

A 5yo, son of Rip Van Winkle, his record at Ascot reads, 5/26 2/15 1/20 3/27 and 1/27, a pretty impressive record for sure, but racing off the same mark as last year (92) when he finished a length behind Burnt Sugar you can’t say that he looks particularly well handicapped. However he did run well off a 3lbs higher mark when 5th in The Victoria Cup in May, and his course form has to be respected.

With rain forecast for the weekend we could see some easing of the ground which should suit David Baron’s 5yo, Kynren. Lightly raced, he has won 3 of his 14 starts but his best performance to date came when beaten a neck by the upwardly mobile,
Cape Byron, on Good-Soft ground over course and distance in The Victoria Cup in May. He ran another sound race when finishing 5/27 in the Royal Hunt Cup over a mile last time off a mark of 101 and back over 7f off the same mark on Saturday could be a potent force if getting his ground.

The Jamie Osborne trained 7yo, Raising Sand, is another who reserves his best for the Berkshire track and is 3/10 at the course. He ran a fine race when finishing 2nd in The Royal Hunt Cup last time, and is another who won’t be inconvenienced by a soft surface, but does need the Handicapper to relent a little.

kevin ryan ascotThe Kevin Ryan trained 4yo, Hey Jonesy, has done most of his racing at 6f (including at Group level) but tackling 7f for only the 2nd time in his 15 race career last time, he saw the trip out really well when beaten 1/2L by the 104 rated Marie’s Diamond to whom he was conceding 7lbs in a Haydock conditions event. A literal interpretation of the form would make his mark on Saturday of 103 look very fair and he has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He finished on the heels of the leaders (beaten 3 3/4L) in the 6f Wokingham Handicap at The Royal Meeting off a mark of 106, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if his excellent trainer, who is no stranger to success at these big southern meetings, landed another.

Meeting older horses for the first time in his brief 4 race career, the 3yo Land Of Legends came through with flying colours when comfortably winning a Class2 7f Newmarket Handicap 30 days ago. By Iffraaj out of an unraced daughter of the Group 2 winning mare, Last Resort, he is well bred, and could prove to be much better than his current rating of 96. There has been plenty of interest in him in the markets, (10/1 at the time of writing) and a lightly raced 3yo like him is likely to continue to improve, but he does need 12 above him in the handicap to come out to get a run, and his lack of experience has to be against him.

The Roger Charlton trained Makzeem, was well beaten in last year’s renewal on
Good/Firm ground, but the way the 6yo quickened clear to land a Newbury Class2 on easy ground 9 days ago was impressive, and even on a 6lbs higher mark, if similar conditions prevail on Saturday, is worth a second look.

The Willie Haggas trained 3yo Fanaar surprised a few when finishing 3rd in the 28 runner Brittania Handicap at odds of 50/1, 37 days ago. He was hampered at the start of the one mile contest, and had to be switched two furlongs out to get a run, so did really well to finish 1 1/4L and 2L behind the well handicapped Biometric, and the favourite Turgenev. He has had a nice 37 day break, is another 3yo likely to be improving, and it’s worth noting that his sole success has come over 7f.

mark johnston ascotThe Mark Johnston trained 4yo, Vale Of Kent, showed that races like Saturday’s are right up his street, when landing Newmarket’s 7f Bunbury Cup a fortnight ago. Leading from the outset, Dettori got the sections exactly right, and when headed two furlongs out, the son of Kodiac battled back and stayed on well to win by 1/2L from the 4/1Fav Solar Gold in a good time. A slight concern would be his lack of form at the track but he is a half brother of the Group1 winning Vale Of York, is only 4lbs higher than Newmarket, and Ascot Maestro, Frankie, is again doing the steering.

Selection : Vale Of Kent

EW.           : Hey Jonesy.   Fanaar.

John Gray

Betway Summer Plate Handicap Chase 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen

peter bowen training

Welsh handler Peter Bowen’s record in the Plate is exceptional

With a relative dearth of top class flat racing on Saturday, we have one of the highlights of the Summer jumping season, Market Rasen’s, eponymous Plate, to get our teeth into. Some of the top yards are represented, but the first port of call has to be the Yet-Y-Rug stables, down Haverfordwest way, of Welsh Maestro, Peter Bowen, as he has won exactly 25% all the runnings of The Plate since it’s inception in 1995, a pretty remarkable achievement for a small yard operating so far from racing’s centre!
Of his 3 entries at the time of writing, last year’s Hero, More Bucks looks the most interesting.

In a heat run at its usual pillar to post gallop, the son of Presenting, jumped fluently throughout, and held on very gamely, to beat the Skelton-trained Too Many Diamonds by 1/2L, and land Peter his 6th Summer Plate. More Bucks has only caught the judges eye once in his subsequent 10 races, ( a Ludlow Class3 Chase in January) but as a result races on Saturday off a mark only 7lbs higher than last year. He showed little in his last two races, (a race on the flat at Bath and a Hurdle race at Market Rasen 13 days ago) but back in a race that suited so well last year, and coming from this yard, the 9yo has to be considered.

7yo’s have won the contest 8 times, and Warwickshire genius, Dan Skelton, will be hoping to improve that record even further with his son of Beneficial, Gortroe Joe.
He is a winner of 2 of his 5 starts over fences for the Alcester handler, including last time out, when he cruised up by 12L over Saturday’s course and distance 90 days ago. It was only a 4 runner affair, and Saturday’s 16 runner field, all racing with the choke out, will present a very different challenge, but the Skelton’s, with a win and a 2nd in the last 3 years, know what is required, and their contender is owned by that great supporter of National Hunt racing, Terry Warner.

Like many a horse before him, the 11yo, Ronava, has improved dramatically for coming under the Tutelage of Worcestershire trainer, Dr Richard Newland. He only arrived at the Claines yard a mere 54 days ago, on a mark of 117, and he is already rated 19lbs higher. The ex Irish son of Blueprint, had plied his trade in the PTP field, over hurdles, and over fences, for the meagre return of a couple of PTP victories, 3 wins over hurdles, and a single chase victory in a 7 year career. Since joining the good doctor, the veteran has won two of his three starts, and was pretty impressive at Hexham last time, winning by an eased down 8L off a mark of 124. He has to cope with a hefty 12lbs rise at the weekend, and would be only the third 11yo to win the contest, but in the hands of Dr Newland, who won with Bobowen 6 years ago, nothing seems impossible.

nicky henderson oddsguruSomewhat surprisingly, Nicky Henderson still awaits a first victory in the Market Rasen feature, but with 3 contenders this year, Theinval, Pacific De Baune, and Casablanca Mix, he looks to be determined to fill the gap in his outstanding CV.  Theinval finished 3rd three years ago as a 6yo, when despite travelling well throughout, he didn’t seem to quite get home, and was beaten 11L. Indeed the rest of his career would suggest that 2m4f is the limit of his stamina so Nicky’s best chance of bringing the prize back to Seven Barrows would seem to lie with one of the other two.

Pacific De Baune is a 6yo son of that good dual purpose French stallion, Al Namix,
(sire of Petit Mouchoir and Saphir Du Rheu amongst many other good horses) and has won 2 of his 4 starts over fences. He showed last time that his recent wind operation had been a success, when comfortably winning a Class2 Newton Abbot Handicap off a mark of 142 from that good yardstick, Wait For Me by 3 1/2L, which makes Saturday’s mark of 149 look fair. A slight concern would be  Pacific De Baune’s lack of experience in a race like The Plate, but he looked a sound jumper in his last 2 races and put in a near flawless round over Warwicks tricky circuit last November.

The 3rd contender from Seven Barrows is the ex French 7yo Casablanca Mix, and he is 2/9 over fences since joining the Lambourn genius in April 2017. He looked well worth his rating of 142 for Saturday when winning an Aintree Class3 Handicap 64 days ago off a mark of 138, and could be well suited by Saturday’s race. All his best efforts have come on flat tracks, and he has looked particularly well suited by a right handed circuit. He has won and been placed twice at Huntingdon, where he gave the now 152 rated
Willoughby Court a fright in 2017, and didn’t quite see out the 3miles trip when failing by only 1/2L to win a Class1 Listed Chase here at Market Rasen last November. Back over a more suitable trip and with Nico De Boinville doing the steering, he could be the one to fill in that gap in the Master of Seven Barrows CV.

Selection  : Casablanca Mix

EW          : Gortroe Joe

John Gray