Epsom Dash Preview: A two-pronged attack on the Downs

Who will prevail in the cavalry charge at Epsom?

The Derby and the Coronation Cup may take centre stage at Epsom on Saturday but the Dash is a fantastic spectacle and Matt Gardner attempts to find the winner...

Mister Mannanan is well treated if returning to anything like his best and is certainly worth a chance to prove that his York running was all wrong.

Royal Ascot is likely to see a couple of American raiders, with Animal Kingdom foremost among them, and no doubt the Yanks will be hoping for a reproduction of 2009, when trainer Wesley Ward landed both the Windsor Castle and the Queen Mary with Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again respectively. 

The Americans, or one in particular, enjoyed a notable success on British soil over the Bank Holiday weekend as Colorado Springs "thrill-seeker" (or mentalists as I like to call them) Kenny Rackers won the annual cheese-rolling competition in Gloucester. It is of note that, in an attempt to make the event safer, organisers replaced the customary 8 lb piece of Double Gloucester with a foam equivalent. Even I, as an infrequent spectator, have established that very few contestants manage to catch the cheese yet many, in fact all of them, hurl themselves down a ridiculously steep hill; now that is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted in no uncertain terms. 

Upon viewing a replay of the 2013 renewal, which is highly recommended, I was put in mind of the upcoming Epsom Dash, not because of the many broken limbs (unconfirmed exaggeration) but because of the speed at which the leaders hurtle down the hill. The Epsom five furlong course doesn't boast quite the severity of gradient as Cooper's Hill but it is, in horse racing terms, a remarkably sharp test of out-and-out rapidity.

Unsurprisingly horses with experience of the track are often of most interest to punters, and this punter is not different. Therefore we are going to deal with race in two halves, grouping together the most interesting of those that have tackled the Epsom drag strip before and those haven't, and eventually recommended a bet from each section. 

Experienced Epsom-ers:
Ajjaadd - Improved, at the age of seven, when scoring over C&D last time, beating La Fortunata by a short-head. 4 lb rise incurred for that win seems fair and he is a must for any shortlist. 

Captain Dunne - Has run in this race for the last four years, winning in 2011, and it was encouraging that he managed to perform at a level close to his best on his reappearance despite the majority of his stablemates needing their seasonal returns. 

La Fortunata - Incredibly speedy mare who is yet to finish out of the frame in five starts over C&D, including on seasonal return when narrowly touched off by Ajjaadd. She was carried to the middle of the track by the eventual third that day and it is far from out of the question that she could reverse the form. 

Fair Value - Posted her two best performances when tackling this C&D, which is unlikely to be a coincidence with him possessing an abundance of speed. Goodwood return, when third to Duke of Firenze, likely to have put her spot on for this and it would be folly to dismiss her. 

Of that quartet, the first and second from a race over C&D in April, namely Ajjadd and La Fortunata, make most appeal. La Fortunata receives a 1 lb pull with her adversary and was arguably unlucky not to beat him that day, having been inconvenienced by the wandering Silvanus, and she will clearly well suited to the demands of this race.  

Epsom Newbies:
Duke Of Firenze - A well-bred colt, being the first foal of Fillies' Mile and Coronation Stakes winner Nannina, who has tasted success on three occasions to date. Latest success was a career best and, though he backed that up on the figures at York next time, he never really landed a blow and the suspicion is that he doesn't want a test of speed quite this severe. 

Smoothtalkinrascal - Has improved since joining David O'Meara over the winter, posting three excellent efforts, including wins at both Leicester and York, and it is possible to excuse his sole below-par performance at Hamilton. He is now 9 lb higher than when last contesting a handicap and were the ground to come up quick it would have to be a concern (as yet unraced on anything faster than good). 

Mister Mannanan - Smart performer in his prime, landing a couple of listed races and competing in handicaps off marks in the low 100's. Returned to form on his seasonal reappearance when winning at Beverley prior to shaping better than the bare result at Chester, and it could be worth forgiving his effort at York as things went against him having missed the break. 

Normal Equilibrium - Built on the promise of an unlucky reappearance to win readily at Chester, beating Bispham Green by a length and a half. He remains a sprinter with plenty of potential and is certainly worthy of consideration under a 4 lb penalty. 

The three-year-old's hold a strong hand here with both Smoothtalkingrascal and Normal Equilibrium well up to making an impact in races of this ilk. However their relative inexperience could count against them, particularly at a track of this nature, so we are more interested in the Dandy Nicholls-trained Mister Mannanan, who is well treated if returning to anything like his best and is certainly worth a chance to prove that his York running was all wrong. 

The pincer movement has been used to great effect throughout history, from the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC to right through to World War II, and we are going to bring the manoeuvre into the modern era by employing it here. The two "prongs" that make up our pincer are La Fortunata and Mister Manannan, one with experience at Epsom and one without, both of whom strike as being capable of making a sizeable impact in this race. Clearly much depends upon the draw (don't let Stone Of Folca's success last year from stall two fool you) but at this stage that is impossible to take into account and as ante-post bets they are as good as any.

Recommendations:
Back Mister Manannan
Back La Fortunata

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