Monday 2 October 2017

4.00 Ayr, Tuesday, October 3

All the races at Ayr on Tuesday will be run on the hurdle course, but that shouldn’t stop Brandon Castle from cocking a snook at the handicapper in the William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap (4.00). The Dylan Thomas gelding has been a revelation since joining Archie Watson in July, winning four of his five starts for his new yard, and readily defied a 10lb rise in the weights when making all to win by 15 lengths, unchallenged, at Chester on Saturday. He’d won his previous start at Catterick by 11 lengths in similar fashion and, in his current mood, should make light of a 6lb penalty. Testing conditions clearly hold no terrors for the five-year-old and, even dropping back slightly in distance under the welter burden of 10st 6lb, it will be bitterly disappointing if he cannot make it 3-3 under Andrew Mullen. Unfortunately, Brandon Castle hasn’t escaped the notice of the bookmakers, but the even money available from Paddy Power in the very early prices seems fair enough.

Selection: Ayr 4.00 Brandon Castle to win    even money

Sunday 3 September 2017

4.00 Brighton, Monday, September 4

In the Love Fairs Antique Fair 22 October Handicap (4.00) at Brighton on Monday, The Special One has discovered the winning habit of late and may be capable of completing a hat-trick. The Cape Cross filly has yet to win over this far, but needed every yard of the 7-furlong course when winning at the Sussex track last month and looks well worth another try over a mile. Ali Stronge’s 4-year-old has been raised just 2lb for her most recent success, but the weight rise is more than offset by Finley Marsh’s 5lb claim so, on her favoured fast ground, another prominent showing seems highly likely. Her latest win doesn’t give her much to spare over Lesanti, but the latter remains a maiden after ten starts and has his stamina to prove stepping back up in trip. Jeremy Noseda’s unexposed three-year-old Good Business has been soundly beaten in three maiden races, but drops in class and looks a potential improver on his handicap debut. He could be the one that gives the selection most to do.

Selection: Brighton 4.00 The Special One to win

Monday 28 August 2017

Chepstow 3.25, Monday, August 28

In the Orchard Media Apprentice Selling Stakes (3.25) at Chepstow on Monday, three turf wins after June 30, 2016 mean that Go Amber Go carries 15lb in penalties and consequently has 10lb to find with Dream Farr at today’s weights, according to official ratings. However, there are reasons for believing that the official figures don’t tell the whole story as far as this race is concerned. Go Amber Go is just 2lb higher in the weights than when winning over 6 furlongs, on the prevailing good going, at Windsor in April and has run when on both visits here, including over course and distance two starts ago.

By contrast, Dream Farr is still a maiden on turf, albeit after just five attempts, and his recent form in that sphere has come on good to soft, soft and heavy going. Indeed, he has raced just once on going faster than good to soft on turf and has only been able to keep on at the same pace in the closing stages of his recent races over 6 furlongs. Of course, he takes a significant drop in class here, so must be feared but, on an unfamiliar track – which doesn’t suit every horse – on going faster than ideal, he may be vulnerable to Go Amber Go, who’s a pretty speedy sort when on song.

Selection: Chepstow 3.25 Go Amber Go to win

Monday 10 April 2017

3.10 Lingfield, Friday, April 14

Lancelot Du Luc went down by half a length to Royal Birth in the Hever Sprint Stakes, over 5 furlongs, on his last visit to Lingfield in February and reopposes on identical terms in the All-Weather Sprint Championship Conditions Stakes (3.10) at the Surrey track on Friday. However, Royal Birth has yet to win beyond the minimum trip and Lancelot Du Luc, who has an enviable strike-rate on Polytrack, including two course and distance wins, must have every chance of reversing the form over an extra furlong. Dean Ivory’s 7-year-old ran on well under pressure to beat Mythmaker, Boom The Groom, Gracious John and Pretend in a bunch finish over course and distance in February and, while there’s clearly not much too choose between the quintet on the form book, the Shamardal gelding can confirm the form. Regular partner Robert Winston takes the ride.

Selection: Lancelot Du Luc to win (9/2 with William Hill)

Monday 3 April 2017

5.25 Southwell, Tuesday, April 4

In the Betway Stayers Handicap (5.25) at Southwell on Tuesday, Omnitago won her maiden over 1 mile 3 furlongs by 8 lengths on her first attempt on Fibresand in January and, although subsequently beaten off a 4lb higher mark in a similar race at Wolverhampton eight days later, deserves another chance to confirm her previous promise. The Aqlaam mare has had just four starts for Michael Appleby and just seven in all, so could still have some improvement in her. The handicapper appears to have taken a chance by dropping her 4lb and Silvestre De Sousa has a healthy 8-29 (28%) strike rate for the yard on the all-weather in 2017, so she looks a decent bet to justify odds of 2/1 with bet365.

Selection: Southwell 5.25 Omnitago to win (2/1 with bet365)

Monday 6 March 2017

Stayers’ Hurdle, Thursday, March 16

No prizes for originality, I’m afraid, but Unowhimeanharry has won all eight starts – including the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December – since joining Harry Fry and looks a worthy favourite.

The Sir Harry Lewis gelding was rated 123 when winning a 0-125 conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 5 furlongs, on the Old Course at Cheltenham on his debut for the yard 2 years and 4 months ago, but has officially improved by 44lb, or 3st 2lb, in the interim. In fact, his current rating of 167 makes him the highest rated hurdler in the country and, as a course and distance winner with no apparent ground preference, he must take a world of beating. Unfortunately, that fact hasn’t escaped the bookmakers, but the 5/4 available with Sky Bet, on a ‘non-runner no bet’ (NRNB) basis, could still look decent value when he sets off up the run-in next Thursday.

Selection: Cheltenham 3.30 Unowhimeanharry to win (5/4 with Sky Bet NRNB)

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Newcastle 2.40, Thursday, March 2

Stoneham hasn’t run on the Flat since October, but ran the race of his life over hurdles when stepped up to 3 miles 2 furlongs at Musselburgh earlier this month and doesn’t look impossibly handicapped on the pick of his Flat form. Despite completing a hat-trick in the summer, his current rating of 67 means that he just sneaks into this Class 6 contest, albeit with the welter burden of 10 stone, and he looks a decent bet to resume winning ways. He’s won a couple of times on the Tapeta surface at Wolverhampton, so there appears no reason why he shouldn’t run his race. Apprentice Lewis Edmunds has been in cracking form recently, with six winners from his last 18 rides, and his 5lb claim will come in handy.
Selection: Newcastle 2.40 Stoneham to win

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Wolverhampton 4.30, Wednesday, February 15

In the Betway Handicap (4.30) at Wolverhampton on Wednesday, the switch back to synthetic surfaces has brought about further improvement in Isharah and, having recorded a career-best effort over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Southwell last month, Mark Johnston’s four-year-old may not have finished winning yet. The son of North American champion sire Kitten’s Joy steps up into 0-105 company for the first time off a 5lb higher mark, but has won three of his four starts on Tapeta, including over 2 miles ½ furlong at Newcastle on his penultimate start, so it would be no surprise if he completed a four-timer against largely exposed opposition. Trainer Mark Johnston has a healthy 25% strike rate at Wolverhampton and jockey Joe Fanning, who’s ridden Isharah to all four career victories, is once again in the saddle, so there’s plenty of cause for optimism.

Selection: Wolverhampton 4.30 Isharah to win

Wednesday 8 February 2017

2.30 Southwell, Friday, February 10

In the 2.30 at Southwell on Friday, Custard The Dragon is 2-2 over course and distance and was far from disgraced when third, off today’s mark, when switched to Tapeta at Newcastle two weeks ago. John Mackie’s 4-year-old drops back into 0-70 company in first-time cheekpieces and is reunited with Joe Fanning, who’s ridden him to both victories at the Nottinghamshire track, so another forward showing seems on the cards. Recent course winners Fujin, Fortinbrass and Dark Forest should keep him honest, but the Kyllachy gelding can maintain his 100% record on Fibresand.

Selection: Southwell 2.30 Custard The Dragon to win

4.50 Lingfield, Thursday, February 9

The booking of reigning Champion Lady Amateur Jockey Serena Brotherton for a horse in a run-of-the-mill lady amateur riders’ handicap almost guarantees that it’ll start at short odds but, in the case of Starboard, in the Betway Handicap (4.50) at Lingfield on Thursday, short odds look justified. David Simcock’s eight-year-old escapes a penalty for winning an apprentice handicap, over a mile, at Chelmsford last week in convincing style and, with winning form over today’s extra two furlongs, is difficult to oppose. In fact, the Zamindar gelding won the Group 3 Prix Du Prince D’Orange, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Longchamp as a three-year-old and, although clearly not the force of old, remains well handicapped on his best form of the last season or two. Unfortunately, he’s unlikely to slip in under the radar, but Miss Brotherton can make what is, I believe, her first ride for David Simcock a winning one.

Selection: Lingfield 4.50 Starboard to win

Thursday 26 January 2017

4.00 Cheltenham, Saturday, January 28

In the Cleeve Hurdle (4.00) at Cheltenham, Unowhatimeanharry has done everything asked of him since joining Harry Fry from Helen Nelmes in October 2015 and, such has been his level of improvement in the last twelve months or so, he’s currently top-priced at 11/4 to win the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The Sir Harry Lewis gelding has won all seven starts over hurdles for the Dorset handler, culminating in a 4½-length defeat of Lil Rockerfeller in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot six weeks ago. A reproduction of that form should be plenty good enough to continue his winning streak and the even money available with Sky Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill could look decent value by tea-time on Saturday.

Selection: Cheltenham 4.00 Unowhatimeanharry (1/1 favourite with Sky Bet, Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill) to win