Well at least I managed to have a look at the Hunt Cup, although I doubt much more now that I'm back at work! No, you're save there Martin as I never touch football from a betting standpoint.
Ascot 17.00 Cl 2 Hcap 1089 (108) 8f gd/fm (30 run)
Last year – 1089 (111) gd/fm 29 ran
Zhui Feng 25/1 4-9-0 (100) Dr 26 by 0.5l from Blair House 16/1 4-8-11 (97) Dr 22
Seniority 4-8-12 (96) Dr 30
13 Jun Cl 2 Hcap (320 u) 8f AW Chelm 5/1 1l 1/15 off 91
held up mid-division, headway over 2f out, driven to chase leaders when switched left over 1f out, led inside final furlong, ridden out, kept on
Won on 2yo debut on gd/fm at Newmarket; gelded early season last year and despite running well over 10f on gd/fm at Windsor in August, it was not until October that he notched his second victory, over 11f at Kempton; has won both his starts this season over 8f at Chelmsford, the latest last week in another career best and it was only his penalty and a couple of withdrawals that got him into the field; seemingly well drawn on recent renewals and does handle the ground.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (7 days); career best lto; high draw;
Minus: course (?); 5lbs penalty;
Verdict: (53) fit and in form, though this tougher opposition, but a contender.
Afaak 4-9-5 (103) Dr 17
17 May Cl 2 Hcap (311 s) 8f gd/fm York 9/2 1.5l 1/10 off 97
tracked leaders, ridden to challenge when edged left approaching final furlong, soon led, ridden and asserted towards finish
Unraced at 2yo, but generally progressive at 3yo, winning twice early season and then later coming back from a break to record a couple of creditable placed efforts in September; well supported but likely needed the run in the Spring Cup at Newbury on his return, but made no mistake when an impressive winner of the Hambleton at York last month with a career best on fast ground; has been raised 6lbs for that, but not improbable that he still has more to offer; drawn in middle of field and could well join the high-drawn group.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); course (F); form run lto (34 days); career best lto;
Minus: up 6lbs; trainer (1/38 – 14d);
Verdict: (49) impressive at York, but stable on a downswing of late, plus now pushing the upper weight limit for recent winners and perhaps nit the strongest contender.
Saltonstall 4-9-5 (103) Dr 3
27 May Prem Hcap (270 u) 8f gd Curr 7/1 1l 1/13 off 98
mid-division, headway into 3rd 2f out, ridden to lead 1 1/2f out, edged left briefly inside final furlong, stayed on well close home
Won over 7f at Limerick as a 2yo, but after finishing L/9 in a Gr 3 in April was not seen again as a 3yo; gelded between seasons and has had 3 starts this term, showing that he can win on gd by scoring at the Curragh last month; carries a 5lbs penalty for that and has one of the inside draws that have not been productive in recent years; moreover, has yet to show he can handle fast ground.
Plus: class (W); distance (W); trainer (C); form run lto (24 days); career best lto;
Minus: going (?); course (?); 5lbs penalty; single digit draw; Irish trained;
Verdict: (47) another pushing the upper limits in regard to recent winning weights, plus with fast ground a new experience, and an inside draw, a contender with questions.
Zhui Feng 5-9-10 (108) Dr 2
12 May Cl 2 Hcap (650 u) 7f gd/fm Ascot 28/1 0.25l 2/21 off 106
raced towards far side, overall leader, ridden over 1f out, ran on well inside final furlong, caught last strides
Runs off an 8lbs higher mark than when taking last year’s renewal, but has shown improvement since and was only just caught in the final strides in the Victoria Cup here on his return last month; has been raised 2lbs for that and has it all to do off top weight, especially from an inside berth, but conditions suit and could make another bold effort.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); form run lto (39 days); career best lto);
Minus: up 2lbs; single digit draw; top weight (0/13);
Verdict: (39) finished 3rd in last year’s Victoria Cup prior to taking this, so not impossible he won’t be thereabouts again, a contender for the frame perhaps.
Escobar 4-9-1 (99) Dr 16
14 Jun Cl 3 Hcap (110 u) 8f gd/fm Hayd 100/30 2l 1/8 off 95
held up towards rear, good headway on inner entering final 2f, soon chased leader, quickened to lead inside final furlong, ran on
Listed winner as 2yo when with Hugo Palmer but afterwards aimed too high; moved to the O’Meara yard and unsurprisingly finished down the field in the Victoria Cup on his first outing for his new connections; followed up by finishing a close 3rd over 7f at Doncaster and then was a comfortable winner over 8f at Haydock last week recording a career best; carries a 5lbs penalty for that, but could well have more to offer as he steps back up in class.
Plus: going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); form run lto (6 days); career best lto;
Minus: class; course; 5lbs penalty; up in class;
Verdict: (35) midfield draw, but could join higher-drawn runners and a possible contender.
Cape Byron 4-9-2 (100) Dr 25
17 May Cl 2 Hcap (311 d) 8f gd/fm York 2/1 F 4.25l 4/10 off 100
held up towards rear, headway over 2f out, ridden and no impression from over 1f out
Won 2nd start over 7f at Newmarket as a 2yo, and won over C&D here on sf coming back from an 11-month break last September; placed in listed company on France the following month, but showed little in Gr company at Meydan in January and had a wind operation shortly afterwards; made favourite at York coming back from a 3-month break, but needed the race and finished 4th to Afaak (-3); meets the winner on 6lbs better terms today and likely to have come on for the race, plus sports first-time cheek-pieces; has a favoured high draw and appears to handle fast ground.
Plus: class (F+); going (F); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); recent outing (34 days); high draw;
Verdict: (30) well-drawn 4yo colt likely to come on for return and a contender.
Looking at past trends, the last 13 winners have all carried 9-5 or less, which only knocks out five contenders! While older horses have won, 4yo/5yo have dominated taking 11 of the last 13 renewals. One that may be overlooked in some quarters is that 9 of the last 13 winners have been drawn 20 or higher, a significant advantage. Other things to bear in mind are that the top weight has a poor record, as do horses carrying penalties, and those trained in Ireland.
There are, of course, numerous others that could be fancied despite failing the above criteria. Tricorn, last year’s Britannia winner, Bless Him, Settle For Bay and Kynren could all be given a shout, while it would totally surprise me if the 9yo Gabrial was thereabouts at the finish, or Ryan Moore was close up on the American debutant Master Merion. However, I’ve got to play the odds when looking at my shortlist.
Last year’s winner Zhui Feng has a number of negatives this time round, not least being top weight and running off an 8lbs higher mark than last year, plus coming out of stall 2 this time round. He’s a game front-runner, but the best he can hope for is a minor berth I believe. Saltonstall is right next door to him in stall 3, plus carries a penalty and is trained in Ireland, and being a Pivotal gelding may not want the ground this fast – pass I think. Escobar is another penalty carrier having won at Haydock last week, but is also going back up in class; while he did win in listed class as a 2yo he has to prove he can handle this level in handicaps, plus stable jockey Tudhope has opted for the 6yo Firmament; again I think I’ll pass. Afaak and Cape Byron met in the Hambleton at York lto where the former in receipt of 3lbs ran out a strong winner from the inconsistent Love Dreams with the more fancied Cape Byron back in 4th; Afaak has been raised 6lbs for that and while that mightn’t seem enough to overturn 4l or so, CB is having his second run back after wind surgery and besides having come on for the race is fitted with first-time cheek-pieces today. Moreover, he may have the better of the draw being drawn in stall 25. The one they may all have to beat though is the bottom weight Seniority, who while carrying a penalty needed that to even get in the race. Interestingly, the much higher weighted Haggas entry, Mubtasim has been withdrawn to ensure that Seniority just sneaks in. With another of those high draws one has to believe he has a great chance of taking the spoils. However, he is currently favourite plus carries a penalty, so I’m going for Cape Byron from Seniority and Afaak in the hopes that one at least makes the frame.
Any comments on today's racing. Please don't just put in selections ... please add some reason why you think a runner will win
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