The racing broadcaster puts a new angle to test with a total of six selections from Newmarket, Ascot, Fontwell and Redcar.
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Last weekend saw two of the best performances of the Flat season so far with Vandeek’s Middle Park victory followed by Ace Impact’s brilliant turn of foot to land the Arc for France.
Any talk of Vandeek reappearing in the Dewhurst was quickly scotched with a sprinting campaign aiming at the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot – rather than an attempt at the 2000 Guineas – being the preferred route for early 2024.
Every bit as impressive was Ace Impact’s withering run down the outside at Longchamp on Sunday to stamp himself as Europe’s best middle-distance performer. At this stage, whether he stays in training is unclear, so it will be interesting to see, provided the ground remains quick, if Ace Impact could aim for the Champion Stakes at Ascot, even though it would be just 20 days on from his Arc win.
Sadly, keeping Classic winners in training (he won the French Derby) in recent years has not improved their value – think Desert Crown and Adayar – and connections could hardly bank on similar ground conditions this late in the season next year.
By far the most disappointing news of the week was the retirement of Arc runner-up Westover through injury. He is such a fine, imposing horse who really seemed to be maturing mentally as well, so you felt he still had unfinished business. While he has won two Group 1s, he has finished runner-up to the two highest-rated horses on the planet in Equinox and Ace Impact this season and would have had every chance to have added to his haul next season. Hopefully he will find support at stud as this has been lacking in the staying division in recent seasons.
The feature race this weekend is the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes where the course will no doubt be hoping Inspiral has read the script to give Frankie Dettori his 500th career victory at Newmarket. However, she should have already ensured he reached that landmark but for being defeated at 1-7f in the Falmouth over on the July Course. I am never comfortable about taking a short price for her – she was also beaten at 11-10 in last season’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – and so will target other races for the selections this week, starting with the two Sales races at Newmarket and Redcar.
The first is WOODHAY WONDER 4/1 who is bidding to follow up his success in a similar race last time out (Newmarket, 14:05). That day he was drawn on the stands side and this time he is over on the far side, but he is proven over the course and distance and there is pace alongside him courtesy of Lieutenant Rascal to give him a good lead in. Favourite Zoulu Chief has been progressive but York suits his forward style more than Newmarket and the stable is not in the form it was. At a big price, Habrdi is an interesting stable switcher (see more below) and could go off over the odds.
At Redcar, there is a paltry turn out for the Two Year Old Trophy (Redcar, 14:45) and DRAGON LEADER SP looks to have a simple task. He is not going to be a backable price in terms of singles, but these sorts of horses can be useful in adding to multiples to (hopefully!) boost other winners.
The big-field handicap of the day is the Howden Challenge Cup (Ascot, 15:35) where old friend FRESH should run a big race having dropped to a mark of 99 which is below his last course-and-distance victory of 102. The stable are having a good spell and the narrower course configuration in place for this meeting should ensure the field do not fragment as much and give him the cover that suits.
One of the angles I have paid close attention to down the years is the records of trainers with horses that move to their yards. Some like to take a bit of time to get to know their new arrivals while others seem to excel at immediately improving them, making first time out the time to catch them.
There are three examples of this on Saturday, starting with the aforementioned HABRDI 33/1 in the Sales Race (Newmarket, 14:05). Jane Chapple-Hyam is 25/202 with yard switchers for an actual/expected ratio of 1.30. This is a much stronger angle when they make their debuts on the All-Weather rather than turf but is still worth a mention given the big price on offer.
ACKLAM EXPRESS (Ascot, 16:45) is another to have changed yards and joined Clive Cox having looked to go a bit sour for Nigel Tinkler. This looks to be with the full support of his previous trainer who is still listed among the owners and the chosen destination looks to be a smart one as Clive’s A/E with new arrivals first up is a very big 1.56.
That means that, based on the odds the horses jump, they win 56 per cent more of the time than the market expects. Switchers can be particularly profitable as quite often their form figures are very average and so they go off at big prices. It is the change of scene that is the angle and the poor level of form prior to the switch can also ensure a falling handicap mark. Acklam Express, for instance, lines up off 88 having started the season off 104.
Lastly, we have an angle based on a specific group of horses from a former trainer, rather than a trainer that has a particularly good record with switchers. Paul Henderson was a very capable trainer for many years, but it had clearly been a struggle for the couple of seasons prior to him recently handing in his license. It would appear that a few of his former charges have been switched to Chris Gordon with the first of them, Our Champ, a ready winner at Plumpton recently before being added to our stable tracker.
I have therefore been looking for any others that have also made the switch and SAN PEDRO (Fontwell, 14:15) is the second to appear. He gave Paul his last winner and, as such, has not fallen at all in the weights, but it could well be that he can progress again here over the same course and distance.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
This section hit new heights last week with all four jockeys riding winners at their respective tracks and three of them riding doubles, the pick of which was Richard Kingscote’s 90-1 brace at Newmarket.
Here is this week’s list of jockeys riding at a track where they have a particularly good career record@
Fontwell – Tom Cannon (95/659, 1.17 A/E)
Wolverhampton – Fred Larson (12/74, 1.72 A/E)
Curragh – Nathan Crosse (17/225, 1.74 A/E)
Fairyhouse – Danny Mullins (48/411, 1.35 A/E)
HABRDI 33/1 (Newmarket, 14:05)
SAN PEDRO (Fontwell, 14:15)
DRAGON LEADER SP (Redcar, 14:45)
FRESH SP (Ascot, 15:35)
ACKLAM EXPRESS SP (Ascot, 16:45)