The racing broadcaster reveals his picks for the Sprint and Old Borough Cups at Haydock and the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, plus one tip for Ascot.
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Action comes thick and fast this Saturday with no less than 10 races on ITV and Group 1s in both the UK and Ireland.
The Irish Champion Stakes is the latest clash between what seems an evenly-matched bunch of horses and, from a betting perspective, was quickly filed in the too tricky basket.
SPRINT CUP (HAYDOCK)
Unlike the Betfair Sprint Cup, though, where the shape of the market makes SACRED 11/1 (15:35) each-way look the best play. Shaquille has been without doubt the dominant sprinter this season whilst all the time looking as if he is just one step away from finally setting himself a mountain he cannot climb.
At Ascot, it was the exit from the stalls and at Newmarket it was a crazy mid-race mustang move that few horses could have carried off. If Shaquille puts it all together he could rout the field but he could also lose the race either before or at the start. It’s not exactly the balancing act you want when he is such a short price.
Of the others, Sacred appeals on our well-established angle of recency bias. Her run at York was disappointing, but that is a track where it can be hard to make ground at trips up to 7f, and she has run poorly there before.
Prior to that, Sacred looked as if she was finally going to land her Group 1 when second to Khaadem in the QEII Jubilee at Ascot. A nice midfield draw for Tom Marquand keeps his options open. An each-way approach at the current prices gives a profit if she again makes the frame behind a Shaquille who brings his A game.
MATRON STAKES (LEOPARDSTOWN)
The horse I am most looking forward to seeing at Leopardstown is TAHIYRA (14:45), who can justify favouritism in the Group 1 Matron. She has always exuded class and has been sparingly campaigned. Connections will probably be keeping an eye on how much conditions dry out but she still has the potential to achieve even more by the end of the season. She’s a classy filly.
SEPTEMBER STAKES (KEMPTON)
Class is also the reason behind BAY BRIDGE (13:35) in the Unibet September Stakes. For a Group 3 contest it has punched above its weight in recent seasons with Enable and Mostadhaf among its roll of honour.
You could reasonably have expected Bay Bridge to be lining up in the Irish Champion, but like a few from the stable he hasn’t quite kicked on as anticipated this campaign. This drop in grade could be just what is required to kick start the rest of his season and potentially open new avenues at a mile-and-a-half, which is no doubt the reason he lines up here.
OLD BOROUGH CUP (HAYDOCK)
The big field handicap of the day is the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup, where AZTEC EMPIRE 4/1 (15:00) can gain a reward for some solid runs in similar type races.
At York last time, he just met a bit of trouble at a crucial stage and his ability to travel strongly in these races underpins his consistency. The main issue will be just getting him slotted in from Stall 13 on what is quite a short run to the first bend.
STABLE TRACKER HORSE
MAGGIE’S WAY (16:20 Ascot) will appreciate the return to handicaps after a decent run in a Listed Race at Haydock. When adding her to the stable tracker, I had hoped that would go completely under the radar but the handicapper did raise her 4lb which does make things trickier.
Even so she spilt horses rated 105 and 99 at Haydock so a mark of 90 may still be well within her compass. Connections will be keeping an eye on how much the ground dries out.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
This is our usual list of those riding at courses where they have an established good record. Once again, two of the three riders on the list last week rode winners.
Ascot – Saffie Osborne (10 wins from 58 runs prior to Friday with an actual/expected ration of 2.49, meaning she rides two-and-a-half times more winners at the track than the prices suggests she should).
Stratford – Bradley Harris (8/14, which is an astonishingly high strike rate giving an A/E of 2.36). The sample size is small, but in terms of going to a track full of confidence there will surely be none higher!
Wolverhampton – Billy Loughnane (24/119 with an A/E of 1.41). Over 25 per cent of his career wins have come here. He is likely to ride out his claim on Friday night at Kempton. But if he fails to do so, there would be no more appropriate course for him to achieve the feat than Wolves.
Part of the aim of the blog is not to concentrate solely on just weekly selections (just as well some weeks!), but through items like the Stable Tracker and Jockeys for Courses to give angles that can be of use on a daily basis.
I have always been a forensic follower of Stable Form. The fact it has plenty of sceptics and can never really be statistically proven until it is obvious to all is for me its greatest asset.
It is a common misconception that this always revolves around some sort of sickness in the yard, though it can do. But it is just identifying a factor that means all of a yard’s horses run better or worse than expected: a change of staff, gallops issues, just backing of horses for targets in the future for example.
This section will try and point out yards that might be about to emerge from a below-par period whose horses may therefore be worth extra investigation this week.
WILLIAM KNIGHT: The gamble on Dual Identity ended a losing run of 56 for the yard. It has been followed by another winner and two seconds from the last three runs. The fact Dual Identity was backed also shows some confidence that anything negative related to the yards form had been overcome.
NIGEL TWISTON-DAVIES: The autumn has always been the time the yard seems to come into its own. After a string of near misses and a Southwell winner, they could be coming to hand again. The stable have a 26 per cent strike rate in September over the last 25 years for an Actual/Expected of 1.20 from a sample of over 550 runners.
BAY BRIDGE (Kempton, 13:35)
TAHIYRA 5/6 (Leopardstown, 14:45)
AZTEC EMPIRE 4/1 (Haydock, 15:00)
SACRED 11/1 e/w (Haydock, 15:35)
MAGGIE’S WAY (Ascot, 16:20)