Today will be a rare late Summer Saturday empty of commitments and devoid of distractions. There is not even much football or cricket to divert me from a proper go at the races. This will make a change.
So taking my cue from the televised schedule:
1.55 Ascot – 7f Class 2 handicap
Not the easiest of starts. An open-looking and valuable handicap over a distance where it often pays to regard previous experience. That doesn’t help much here however. A field deep with campaigners hardened-off like frost-resistant perennials boasts 15 winners at the 7f trip. Six have winning track form too. ‘Highly tried’, I think, is the term for the majority of these boys with plenty of inconsistency and patchy form. This will have to be a cautious opening to the day. An each-way fun bet on Light Up My Life at 25-1. She has some decent form in listed company behind some good sorts (Stoute’s Integral) and ran well enough here in the Sandringham to suggest the track will be no problem. Needs to overcome a couple of moderate efforts the last twice. The price reflects that. Only a three year old so shouldn’t be bottomed out yet.
2.05 Haydock – 5f Class 2 handicap
The big field sprint handicaps are hunting in pairs this afternoon. Prohibit is a real old war horse and there are a couple of others here who may be feeling their age. Hard to say that about Harrison George, 13-2, though. At 8, he’s landed a pair of fair handicaps this season. The track has copped plenty of rain and there are showers around today. George likes a bit of juice. Backing a horse on the basis of the prevailing atmospheric conditions is just one of the many follies I’ve adopted over the years. Time to dust it off here. Another I like is Above Standard but he looks to have a preference for good to firm, and connections turn to a hood in the hope of eeking out some improvement.
2.20 Kempton – 1m4f Group 3
Group races on the sand in England. Whatever next. Tasty little contest this, though. Royal Empire has taken big steps forward with every race this season, but 11-4 is a little short for my liking and can be opposed, bearing in mind the penalty he brings here. Main Sequence has a bit to prove since his 2nd in the 2012 Derby. Last year’s Arc 3rd Masterstroke, 5-1, is the boy for me. He will have come on a bundle for his seasonal reappearance at Goodwood when he was too fresh. Oodles of form last year. The small risk is whether he takes to the surface.
2.40 Haydock – 1m Group 3, Superior Mile
Decent enough race but I can’t find an angle to get Montiridge beaten. Looks to be well on the upgrade and has solid form at this level. But evens is never attractive (too many burnt fingers). There doesn’t look to be enough rain around to give Tawhid a realistic chance of reversing his most recent Goodwood encounter with Montiridge. Nine Realms is still progressive, though a bit unknown at this level and on this going. The bet is a small exacta that sees the Haggis horse squeeze home behind Hannon’s gelding with Tawhid out of the picture. I may reverse it because I’m an optimist.
2.55 Kempton – 1m Class 2, London Mile
Another valuable, big-field handicap where a case can be made for many. Market leaders Ehtedaam and Seek Again re-oppose after an informative clash at this venue last month. Clockmaker was deeply impressive when streaking away at Chester last week and seems to take his racing well. The worry is that was a bit out of character and he won’t be able to repeat the trick with an extra 7lb on his back. Graphic won well last time, but still looks a short price on the balance of his overall form. He beat Postscript into 4th in that race. Postscript is now double the price of Graphic even though he is pretty consistent at this level this season. I feel like I’m groping a little here, but am able to persuade myself through sheer bloody-mindedness that Simcock’s charge is a solid enough each way shout at 16-1. Needs to be ridden to come late from a wide draw. Possibly.
3.15 Haydock – 1m6f class 2 handicap, Old Borough Cup
Clowance Estate ran with a sliver of staying-on credit when we pitched up at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago. He may not yet have fulfilled all his potential (and I don’t know if he enjoyed McFly). Stepping him up a little bit further is definitely worth a try and it’s another each-way thievery job at 14-1 if I’m quick.
3.30 Ascot – 1m4f class 2 handicap
The day’s most valuable handicap, exclusively for 3-y-os, and 13 of them – most boasting upwardly mobile profiles - look like turning out. Elhaame, 9-1, is my pick. He has made great progress and can win ridden prominently or come through the field. His progress has not been as eye-catching as market leaders Café Society or Special Meaning, though. The latter has gone up 30lb this season and will be exciting to watch with her front running style (others in the race like to dictate too) and this race should be a great spectacle.
3.50 Haydock – 6f Group 1, Sprint Cup
Channel 4 saving the best ‘til last. By then we might have a proper view of the ground conditions. That will be crucial for favourite Lethal Force. Anything like a decent surface and he will be hard to beat. Conversely, any more rain getting into the ground will strengthen the hand of Gordon Lord Byron. Garswood is interesting, but it’s hard to judge what his best trip is. Never won at this trip, but effective at 7f on easy. I’m looking long here (oh, how many times…) and playing Heerat, 14-1, who has improved all season – trainer, Haggas has been in superb form – and put up his best showing when returned to this trip in July. Seems versatile as regards the ground and could well be in the mix.
And that’s me done. On Sunday I’ll be found in front of the e-bay screen attempting to hawk off our few remaining sticks of furniture (shirts having already gone) to raise funds for next week’s assault. Don’t try this without a responsible adult, kids.