Saturday, 8 September 2012

List horses


The infamous flat horses to follow project is rumbling into its penultimate month. After a slow start, the list has begun to wash its face financially, albeit with a flannel small and thin enough to give airline complimentary wet wipes a good name. Today presents an opportunity to move the project up a rung or two because of the presence of half-decent chances and half-decent prices.

Kempton, 2.30pm – Modun is a forecast 5-1 chance in a strong looking September Stakes field. He picked up this race last year whilst in the charge of Sir Michael Stoute. There were signs of a return to form at Newbury last time after a previous effort on the wrong ground. A busy time before that in Australia and UAE can’t have helped. 1m4f here will suit, as will the surface. It’s a confident bet, but he main danger may well be Calvados Blues and arguably comes with the best Godolphin form. Sagramor is feared too.

Haydock, 5.05pm – Aazif. John Dunlop’s charge has been frustrating this season and has yet to get his bonce in front. Second-placed the last two outings, this step up in trip has been anticipated for some time and its not quite clear why connections have been so cautious with him. The 7-2 on offer is not entirely generous with the likes of Ex Oriente and Between Us who line up with better form on paper. His liking for the track and probably the trip have not escaped the bookies beady eyes.

Leopardstown, 5.45pm – Born To Sea. Unlike the first two selections, Born To Sea doesn’t have much chance of winning the Irish Champion Stakes. On paper, he comes to the track 4th best. Odds of 20-1 keenly highlight his worrying lack of progress, for instance when stuffed by old lag Famous Name last time out. The only scenario I can conjour up is that two of Nathaniel, Snow Fairy and St Nicholas Abbey have off-days and Born To Sea miraculously (how else?) finds the improvement that we know is there, under conditions that fall right. It’s a slim frame hope and a marginal price shout.

Thirsk, 4.05pm – Full Speed. This is an ex-list horse. A horse that has ceased to be (listed). Back in 2010, I backed Full Speed to an early season win and a fail. Following which he wasn’t seen again until last year when, by the end of the season, he was recapturing good form. He’s been off again since last July and reappeared (low key, wrong ground) last month, now under the tutelage of decent northern trainer Phil Kirby. This Hambleton Cup is a tough enough handicap. Aren’t they all? But at 33-1 on ground he will like, over the right trip and on the pick of his form (if he can recapture it), the head and the heart encourage me into a minimum stakes each-way wager. Convinced? Don’t be.

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[Scene: head-scratching of such fury that concerns are raised about a friction fire in dry, brittle split ends during a surprisingly hot September spell; eye brows entwined in inextricable knots sufficient to enthrall a Royal Navy Rating.]

What happened there? Two of my more confident bets this season burned away under a meltingly hot Autumnal sun. The only heat about their performances was the scorch marks left in the debit column of my secret Swiss bank punting account. The one that siphons off the Child Benefit and is named after our pet hamster. I got the idea from Harry.

Modun was consistently backed all morning, touching favouritism at a couple of points, and no bigger than 10-3 at the off. So I found some value. But that's all. Dandino, the archetypal consistent sort ran to bare form and won this heat with a bit to spare. Modun was held up but seemed to find very little when asked to quicken and was never near enough to challenge the leaders. He is not the horse of last year and remains a frustrating beast who may never realise his full potential.

I could utter carbon copy remarks about Aazif who I rated as an even stronger chance. And consistent with the laws of symmetry, I was even more disappointed. Money came for him too and he lined up the 9-4 fav. He never came close to justifying those odds, trailing in 6th after being held up and failing to mount a serious challenge thereafter. Maybe the M6 lay-by he ran on wasn't to his liking. He's running out of excuses, though - fool that I am - I'd stump up again over this trip if he raced on a surface with a little less concrete in the going report.

Born To Sea ran as I feared. And whilst it's tempting to say we may not have seen the best of him, it's more likely that he has just flattered to deceive on a couple of occasions. The evidence for the latter is starting to mount up. I love Snow Fairy to bits. What a marvellously campaigned and talented mare.

So thank heavens for one of my other list horses who once again got me out of jail. Mince, benefitting from Roger Charlton's considerable sprint training expertise, bolted up in the Garrowby Stakes at York yesterday. At only 2-1, this could only be damage limitation territory. But Mince's fourth victory this season, third on the bounce and second successive listed success represents a streak hotter than the charcoaled sausages I was incinerating on the bbq to mark my daughter's 15th birthday. She owes me nothing. (My daughter, on the other hand...)

On to Doncaster then and a chance to wring a smidgeon of profit out of the season. Sweat the list equity.

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