The racing broadcaster has three picks for Wetherby and Ascot in the UK, one for Santa Anita in the USA and a Melbourne Cup selection in Australia.
Anyone who has been battered by Storm Ciaran this week will need little reminding of the changing of the seasons. Hopefully both Wetherby and Ascot will beat the weather, albeit at the expense of testing ground which, at this stage of the season, will test fitness to the full.
While it is easy to speculate on the strength of a race as a piece of form, a better guide can be the subsequent performances of those involved, and two very strong contenders from last season have representatives running this weekend.
WETHERBY AND ASCOT
First up is YOU WEAR IT WELL 13/5 who runs in the Listed Mares Hurdle (Wetherby, 13:50). She ran consistently all season in some very strong form races, including her second place in the Challow – a race which threw up five next-time-out winners.
Her finest hour was when winning the Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices Hurdle at the Festival (four next-time-out winners) before being beaten at Aintree where another of today’s runners, Kateira, finished ahead of her in second place. Kateira had bypassed the Festival, however, so may have been the fresher horse, and was also taken out once last season on account of unsuitably soft ground.
You Wear It Well has plenty of soft-ground form and a victory at the very stiff Hexham, so a test of stamina at the trip might be more up her street than Kateira’s.
An even better line of form is represented by MONBEG GENIUS 100/30 (Ascot, 15:45) with his Festival third in the Ultima Handicap Chase. The two in front of him that day were Corach Rambler, who won the Grand National next time out, and Fastorslow, who won a Grade 1 at Punchestown.
Jonjo O’Neill’s horse led quite a long way out that day and rather put a target on his back. He looks the type to play a hand in some of the leading staying chases this season and holds entries in both the Grand Sefton over the National fences or, more likely, the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in a month’s time. He is one to follow this season.
My first ante post bet of last season was on THYME HILL 7/4 (Wetherby, 14:25) for the Stayers’ Hurdle after seeing him look anything but convincing in his initial forays over fences. Quite how he won the Kauto Star over Christmas remains beyond me, but that ensured he stayed over the larger obstacles at the Festival – consigning my ante post bet to dust – where his limitations were cruelly exposed in the Brown Advisory and, while he ran over hurdles at the season’s end at Sandown, it was over a trip well short of his best.
Philip Hobbs and Johnson White now share the licence and the yard has done well in recent weeks and, although he has a tough, gritty opponent in the admirable Dashel Drasher, Thyme Hill has an excellent record fresh.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
There’s not much further away over the next few days than Santa Anita and Flemington in a feast of International Flat racing.
I have always kept it fairly simple in my approach to the European challenge: ignore the dirt races, don’t expect European speed horses to outrun the Americans and concentrate of turf horses that race close to the pace.
Prime candidate this time around appears to be MAWJ 3/1 in the Breeders Cup Turf Mile (Santa Anita, 20:30). She has been drawn inside her chief rivals so looks likely to be able to race in a great spot and, while Japan has had a great time of things internationally this year, Songline fluffed her lines badly on the only other occasion she has travelled abroad. With Master of the Seas drawing gate 14, Mawj looks to have been given the ideal opportunity to round off a stellar year.
Such has been the dominance of European stayers in Australia in recent seasons that there are plenty of familiar names among the line-up for the Melbourne Cup (Flemington, 16:00) which jumps in the early hours of Tuesday morning. One of them is SOULCOMBE who left William Haggas after victory in the Melrose at York to ply his trade down under. He tasted immediate success in the Queen’s Cup at Flemington and has been campaigned very much with the Cup itself in mind. This will be the first time since the Melrose that he has run beyond 1m 6f and that could prove a major asset.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Nico de Boinville partnered a 9-1 winner at Cheltenham from the two highlighted last week, so here’s our regular list of jockeys riding at tracks where they a historically good record:
- Ascot – Charlie Deutsch (13 winners from 63 rides, actual/expected ratio of 1.47)
- Ayr – Bruce Lynn (12/81, 1.41 A/E)
- Newmarket (Rowley) – Paul Mulrennan (8/52, 1.73 A/E)
- Wetherby – Harry Skelton (70/223, 1.22 A/E)
YOU WEAR IT WELL 13/5 (Wetherby, 13:50)
THYME HILL 7/4 (Wetherby, 14:25)
MONBEG GENIUS 100/30 (Ascot, 15:45)
SOULCOMBE (Flemington, 04:00)