Elite Service Saturday 7th July
Haydock 1.45 (Old Newton Cup): ATKINSON GRIMSHAW (10/1) / GOLDEN WOLF (7/1) / TEODORO (9/1) – 1pt e/w.
Skybet paying 6 places with William Hill and PP paying 5 places - all others to 4th (we will settle to 4th)
With the continued dry spell seemingly having a negative impact on field sizes, this is probably the most competitive race of the day .
When I started my analysis of this race, I was sure I would be able to confidently take on the likely favourite ATTY PERSSE but, the more I looked at it, I kept coming back to him as a likely winner. However, there are a couple of negatives that just about persuaded me to swerve him at the prices in the end - I hope I don't regret it!
The record of horses in this race without a previous run in the season is not very good and, although this son of Frankel has won on seasonal appearance in both years he has competed thus far, this is a tough race to be making a seasonal debut in. He was an impressive winner at Royal Ascot last season on good-to-firm going but disappointed in 2 subsequent runs and found himself the subject of a gelding operation after that. He gets a first-time tongue tie here and the booking of Jamie Spencer is an interesting one. His trainer is fine form at present and off a mark of 99 he could be nicely treated. However, all of his wins so far have come on right-handed tracks and he has been beaten on his only 2 starts going left-handed so far, including once at this track.
When looking at the horses, at each-way prices, with which to take on the favourite, it often pays to have one on your side who has proven themselves as ultra-consistent (as we saw with WATERSMEET last week) and one who, certainly, fits that bill here is GOLDEN WOLF. He has been running-well this season without getting his head in front, finishing 2ndon all 3 occasions. Perhaps the best of those 3 runs was the middle one at Epsom on Derby Day when he bumped into the well-handicapped DASH OF SPICE who, of course, went on to win impressively at Royal Ascot and is now rated at 107. GOLDEN WOLF runs here off a mark of 90 and Nicola Currie takes off a useful 3lbs to put him back on the same mark as when chasing home Dash Of Spice that day. He is a strong traveller who probably just found the extra 2 furlongs a stretch last time at Newmarket and, being a 4 year-old he represents the age group that has been very successful in this race in the last 10 years (7 winners).
ATKINSON GRIMSHAW is another 4 year-old who is making just his 2ndstart for Scottish trainer Ian Jardine. He was trained by Andrew Balding last year before changing stables just last month. He has only ever finished outside the first 3 once in his 8-race career so far and that was on his racecourse debut 2 years ago at Salisbury. He has run in some strong races and was unsuited by the slow pace of the race when making his stable debut last month at Ayr and is sure to be better suited by the likely fast pace that will ensue here.
The likes of SOFIAS ROCK, TITI MAKFI, RAINBOW REBEL, CROWNED EAGLE and, even, ATTY PERSSE are all horses who may cut out the running and, with the likely competition for the lead, it could suit ATKINSON GRIMSHAW coming off a strong pace. The trainer has a decent record in handicap races of this type (winning The Ebor with NAKEETA last season) and has a good strike-rate at this track in recent seasons too. The horse has a nice racing-weight and his young, but capable, claiming jockey takes off a further 3lbs. He looks progressive to me and this mark may under-estimate him.
The final pick is also a 4 year-old and is one who really caught my eye with his performance last-time out at Newbury. TEODORO has often front-run in the past but proved his versatility that day when coming off a strong pace to win going away at the line. That was on quick ground and the common factor in all 5 of his career wins so far has been the good-to-firm going (he is 5/5 on such ground in fact). He represents the top trainer/jockey combination at this course and, although he has gone up the weights steadily in the last 12 months or so, a 6lb rise for his Newbury win does not look overly-harsh judged by the manner of the victory. He could well still be improving and, also, has the added tick in the box of course form, having won here on 2 of his 3 visits. He could be one of those who will look to set a strong pace but, with so much competition for the front, I'm hoping he follows the same plan as at Newbury and takes a lead, sitting just off the strong gallop and coming through up the long Haydock straight to make his challenge nearer the line.
Sandown 12.55: POUVOIR MAGIQUE (8/1) / DAIRA PRINCE (13/2) – 1pt e/w
Skybet paying 5 places with all others to 4th place (we will settle to 4th place)
The other big-field handicap comes at Sandown with 16 set to go to post in The Coral Challenge Handicap over a mile.
A number of these competed in a course-and-distance handicap just 3 weeks ago with VIA SERENDIPIDITY, MANSON and CHIEFOFCHIEFS finishing 1st, 2ndand 4threspectively. Of these, I expect the latter to reverse the placings with the other 2 as I thought he was given a very poor ride by James Doyle that day when held up last and given too much ground to make up when having to come wide. MANSON was a tip of mine on that day and had a bit of trouble in running before just grabbing 2ndnear the line and, although better off at the weights today with the winner, this horse does seem to go best when fresh so that may have been his chance.
My short-list for this contest, in the end, was RAISING SAND, who ran much better than his finishing position would suggest in The Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, DAIRA PRINCE, who has improved for the fitting of blinkers this season, and POUVOIR MAGIQUE.
In the end, I left RAISING SAND out of my final picks as the majority of his good runs have come at Ascot and he may be worth tracking with a view to getting involved when he runs there next.
POUVOIR MAGIQUE is a horse who may not yet have reached his ceiling in terms of rating and connections think highly of him. He was a good winner of a mile contest at Newbury in May on good-to-firm but, then, disappointed last time at Newcastle. The horse was found to be lame after the race, however, and I think, therefore, that it’s best to discount that performance. He’s won twice over today’s distance from 3 starts and there are few more capable trainers in the business than John Gosden. He’s not one to pitch horses into races like this without them having a good chance and he will have bigger and better plans set out for the horse should he justify the obvious faith he has in him.
DAIRA PRINCE has looked a different horse this season and that may be due to the fitting of blinkers or the fact that he was gelded before the start of it (or a combination of the two). He looked in real trouble a furlong out last time, at Ripon, when not able to get a clear run but came with a rattling run, when eventually switched out wide, to get up close home. He was clearly value for further than the winning distance and the rise of 4lbs does not look harsh at all. He has form over further than this so will not be found wanting for stamina up the Sandown hill to the line. Andrea Atzeni is back in the plate for a stable that has been going well in the past fortnight and the horse has winning form on the ground so that is unlikely to be an issue either.
Thanks to David for that detailed analysis, which deserves 2 winners!