As a jockey, Jamie Spencer has long divided the opinion of the betting public. His favoured waiting tactics regularly attract the ire of many observers, but in the right circumstances, they are both highly-effective and absolutely thrilling to watch.
Such tactics are more often than not seen to their very best effect in big-field, high-class handicaps where ample cover and an end-to-end gallop provide the optimal environment for them to thrive. The Cambridgeshire - which is at 15:40 at Newmarket on Saturday - tends to very much fit that bill and in Jazeel, Spencer has a partner that is very well equipped for the task at hand.
Jazeel progressed in likeable style as a three-year-old when trained by Mick Channon last year. This progression culminated in a victory that is very relevant to the task he faces on Saturday, his success off a mark of 84 in the Silver Cambridgeshire. Ridden by David Egan, the group on his side of the track went a solid pace, allowing him to pick his way through traffic and lead close home to prevail by a neck. The following month, he was bought in for 130,000gns at the October Horses-In-Training Sales and changed hands privately thereafter to join his current trainer Jedd O'Keeffe.
Now a four-year-old, Jazeel has continued to make progress since joining O'Keeffe. His seasonal debut again allowed him to exhibit his liking for the Cambridgeshire course and distance, finishing a neck second to Elector in a much smaller field than he will encounter on Saturday.
Since then, Jazeel and Spencer have been getting better acquainted, with Spencer riding him in four of his five subsequent starts. Unsurprisingly, they have proved to be well matched with each other, with those four outings together yielding a victory at Sandown and two runner-up finishes.
The most significant of those runs with a view to Saturday was their half-length second in a valuable mile-and-a-quarter handicap at Glorious Goodwood. In a race that wasn't run at as strong as pace as would have been ideal for Jazeel, the pair swept down the outside and only found Fayez too good for him. What that run showed was that Jazeel is still off a workable mark and could potentially do better still in even more suitable circumstances.
Raised 3lb for that run, the Jazeel/Spencer partnership were next stepped up to a mile-and-a-half for the first time in a valuable handicap at York. That trip doesn't appeal as ever being likely to suit him and, having been dropped out, they could only make late headway.
On Saturday, Jazeel will race over a course and distance that appeals as being ideal for him and should get the strong pace that plays to both his and his rider's strengths. With Newmarket having thus far missed the worst of the rain that was feared, the ground seems likely to come up good which will suit him well. Barring two excusable runs at York, he has progressed well this season and the promise of his run at Goodwood in July suggests he has the potential to win a race of this nature off his current mark.
The draw will no doubt be a big topic of discussion in the lead-up to the race. The Silver Cambridgeshire on Friday may provide some clues, but as always, in the absence of a clear track bias I tend to search out where the horses that are likely to push the pace are drawn and hope to be close to them. In this case, Jazeel has drawn stall seven, which is close to two of the leading candidates to push the pace in Al Jellaby (1) and Zhui Feng (4), so there is good reason to hope that he will be where the main action is.
Don't hold your breath. Don't get worried if they are closer to last than first entering the penultimate furlong. But, with a bit of luck, Jazeel and Jamie Spencer will be motoring home in the closing stages to get heavily involved in the finish of the Cambridgeshire.