So I think it’s probably fair to say that last weekend was a genuine disappointment, in a season that has been, thankfully, relatively short on such perceptions.
It’s probably best not to dwell on that in too much detail, rather more just dusting ourselves down and moving on, but I suppose that there were inherent risks, that subsequently realised themselves, in selecting Killala Quay and Walk In The Mill. Copper Kay ran well, and may, or more likely may not, have been inconvenienced in the shenanigans at the second last.
This weekend, due to the paucity of decent quality jumps action, I’m going to try my hand at assessing the Mile Stakes and the Lincoln at Doncaster. I’ve said before that flat racing isn’t really my metier, and as such I’ll run separate P/L calculations for the flat season so as to delineate, in selections terms, between the two.
In many ways, it is a fresh slate.
The format of the blog may also be slightly different, and I hope it won’t be any poorer for that, but it may just read as a collection of thoughts rather than specific previews of individual contests.
To that end, I thought that the presence of Toscanini in the Mile Stakes was interesting, given that this represents a significant step up in trip on his first start for the Fahey yard. He ran well enough at his only start approximate to this trip, in the Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh last July (7f) to suggest that a mile should not be beyond him – to say nothing of the fact that there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree, being a Sharmadal out of a Panoramic mare – and being that he’s also won a listed race on a broadly analogous surface, at the Curragh last June, he appears overpriced.
I suspect however that, given that this does represent a step up in trip for him, it is unlikely that he will be ridden as prominently as he has been in the past, but, even if this transpires to be the case, there is still a signficant pace angle here – Custom Cut, Cymric, Dawn Of Hope and Dark Emerald are all likely to be to the fore – and if Hanagan can get him to travel in behind that pace, it might be that he has the latent speed to pick them up late on. Obviously there’s a fair amount of inference in that perspective but presumably he must be showing something at home to suggest that this is a cogent target for him, and, at the prices, he is worth siding with.
The main threat to him probably comes in the form of Crazy Horse, but he appeared to need the run on his first start last season, when sixth behind The Gurkha, and seems to be far better over seven furlongs – a trip at which he is unbeaten – than he is over a mile – a trip at which he is yet to win. I fully appreciate that it’s counterintuitive to propose Toscanini as the answer to this particular puzzle despite his lack of confirmed stamina while at the same time discarding Crazy Horse on the same basis, but given the disparity in price, there’s certainly more margin for error in taking that approach.
Elsewhere, I wondered if that pace battle, at an early point of the season, might be enough to blunt the edge of Custom Cut, although theoretically the same idea that I proposed, tactically, for Toscanini might too be applied to Custom Cut, but given his stamina over a mile is all but confirmed, the incentive to try and get him to do so might not be so obvious. That being so, he will be one to keep on side for the remainder of the season.
To my mind, Stormy Antarctic is a weak favourite – his price, and lofty rating, is derivative of his victory in a below average renewal of the Craven Stakes last year. It might seem harsh to define it in that way, but, twelve months on, the fact that none of the first three – Stormy Antarctic, Foundation and Shogun – have won a race since, despite being highly tried, is pretty declarative. On those grounds, he should be opposed, and I hope that doing so with Toscanini will get us off to a good start.
Thereafter follows the Lincoln.
I thought again that this might be a contest that was defined by its pace angle, but not so much in terms of the composition of the protagonists, but more as a result of where they are drawn. The most consistent pocket of early pace seems to within the high numbered stalls – Instant Attraction (15) and Emell (22) will certainly want to be prominent, and I suspect that Lucy The Painter (12) and Zhui Feng (13) may shift slightly across to join them, creating a more pronounced window of opportunity for those in and around them to travel into the race. I couldn’t see the same pace angle with the lower numbers, although the inconsistent George Cinq (6) could fit the bill.
Assuming that analysis is correct, I think it could pay to side, at a huge price, with Master Carpenter.
He is drawn on the right side, in stall 19, and has proven stamina at trips further than this. They are two factors very much in his favour, because it should allow him to travel in behind that strong pace that will be created and then utilise that extra stamina to get his head in front. His current price, 33/1 in places, is almost insulting to a horse who won the John Smith’s Cup from a five pound higher mark, and who has won in a listed contest previously. In lots of ways, his campaigns have perhaps suffered from being the best horse in a smaller yard – his run when not disgraced in the Coronation Cup is suggestive of that – because when you have horses that are perhaps on the verge of that class, it must be tempting to run them in the events such as that – and this represents perhaps a more suitable level for him. He should not be the price he is, on any rational analysis of his best form. He has been tilting at windmills a little, but, this represents a much more feasible target, and, a good run should be expected. The fact that Lulu Stanford, whom has a respectable 13% strike rate this season, takes off an extra five pounds can only be a bonus.
I wondered initially if the pace angle might be more suitable to a genuine hold up horse, such as Steel Train, but at the same time, the fact that he has previously shown signs of recalcitrance leaving the stalls is a profound negative. Also, as the analysis of individual horses cannot exist in a vacuum, given my thinkings about Master Carpenter, I can very easily forsee a situation where he is left with too much to do and runs on well to achieve late respectability.
It is worth saying that when I first looked at the race earlier in the week, I was taken with Donncha, and it seems so too where many others, given the way that his price has contracted markedly throughout the week. When that kind of thing happens, it is my natural wont to look back at the rationale and see if there’s any holes that can be picked in it, and, with Donncha, I suspect that there probably is.
His form in the Balmoral has an air of a hard luck story about it, and that naturally predisposes him to be sided with in a handicap like this, because you are drawn, kidded almost, into thinking that on that occasion, he was about to prove that a mark of 100 underestimated him. Looking a little deeper, I’m not totally sure that that’s the case.
He’s now run to a mark of 100 on his last five starts, and 101 on the two before that – so is the more compelling argument not that he perhaps, even with a clear run, would have come up a little shy on that occasion? More pertinently, does it not suggest that he might do so again?
At the price he was earlier in the week, I would’ve been more willing to take that chance, but as second favourite in a twenty two runner handicap, it is an all the more worrying trend. His form indicates that he is consistent sort, but, consistency at a high level does not engender itself to winning big handicaps, as Village Vic has been explicitly proving all through the winter.
In a conclusion I wasn’t necessarily expecting, given that he has gone so long without a win, the best angle I can see here is to side with Master Carpenter, perhaps each way, and then just to cross our fingers and hope that the flat season goes the same way as the jumps one has so far!
Master Carpenter (each way)
With best wishes ,