Ben Fearnley previews Saturday's big betting race, the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, and recommends a bet.
"At nearly double the price of Portage, Godolphin look to have another strong chance in the race courtesy of Musaddas, whose reappearance effort at Newmarket in May looks particularly strong form..."
The ante-post market for this year's Cambridgeshire, which sees Bronze Angel, winner of the race in 2012 and 2014, as current favourite, seems in tune with the larger shift in certain top-end handicaps, which in recent years have become the destination rather than a stop-off on the way to Pattern races. There are still exceptions, last week's Ayr Gold Cup winner Don't Touch suspected to be one, for starters, but with ever-higher BHA marks required just to get a run, it feels as though established performers have pulled the ladder a little higher, making it harder for climbers to join them.
A race with few obvious improvers will maximise the chances of dual-Cambridgeshire winner Bronze Angel, who comes here in good heart after winning at Doncaster earlier this month. Although his wins in this race have both come off BHA marks in the 90s, he won the valuable Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day last year from 105, which is just 3lbs lower than he must defy here. Bronze Angel will surely make a bold bid to become the first horse to win three Cambridgeshires, but it is hard to recommend backing him at such a short price to defy a career-high mark.
If there is are any future Pattern performers in the race this year, then the three-year-old pair of Portage and Third Time Lucky look like the most credible candidates, though it is hard to recommend the latter for this test considering all four of his victories this season have come in much smaller fields. Portage, on the other hand, would seem to be suited by a large field, having finished second in the Irish Cambridgeshire last month. The time Portage took to knuckle down in the race over a mile would suggest that the extra furlong at Newmarket on Saturday will serve him well, and he looks a leading contender, with more to come on just his fifth handicap start, though his current position in the market as second-favourite is probably just a fair reflection of his strong claims.
At nearly double the price of Portage, Godolphin look to have another strong chance in the race courtesy of Musaddas, whose reappearance effort at Newmarket in May looks particularly strong form, with the three horses that chased him home all going on to win in the weeks that followed. Musaddas acquitted himself well next time out when second to Birdman at York and was unlucky not to finish closer to the winner after meeting trouble and finishing strongly. His latest run at York was a reminder of Musaddas' quirky side, though it's possible to blame new headgear and softer ground for that, and besides it's more than factored into current odds of 25/1, that being a generous price for a horse with some of the best form in the race.
Naturally, there is a near-endless list of other potential dangers to the selection, with Earth Drummer, who looks set to appreciate this drop in trip after shaping well over 10 furlongs last time, also worth a mention, along with Spark Plug, who has been completely luckless during the middle of this season after a bright start. At the prices though, Musaddas is the one that stands out in this year's Cambridgeshire, and he would get a tentative vote in what is always one of the biggest puzzles of the season.
1pt win Musaddas in the Cambridgeshire