Timeform's Tony McFadden looks ahead to Saturday's fiercely-competitive Cambridgeshire...
Deliberately kept fresh since, King's Warrior will have to contend with a 10 lb rise in the weights for that comfortable success, a burden partially offset by his trainer's shrewd decision to acquire the services of the highly-rated 5 lb claimer Michael J M Murphy...
Some of the more adventurous punters out there love nothing better than trying to find the winner of both the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch, the two fiendishly-difficult handicaps which comprise the Autumn Double. The Cambridgeshire takes centre stage at Newmarket on Saturday and, with thirty-five runners set to hurtle down the wide expanses of the Rowley Mile, it is probably a wise move to concentrate solely on this nine-furlong event, putting all aspirations of cracking the double to one side.
Three-year-olds often come to the fore in the betting in the Cambridgeshire and this year's renewal is no different, with Mukhadram and Chil The Kite battling it out at the head of the market. It comes as little surprise that these representatives of the classic generation have been well supported in recent weeks, as both possess the progressive profiles usually required to prevail in an ultra-competitive handicap such as this.
An impressive winner of a Newmarket maiden, Mukhadram was set a stiff task at Royal Ascot on only his third start, asked to contest a competitive Group 3. Understandably, given his inexperience, he was not up to the task, but he did shape with a great deal of promise, making a threatening move a couple of furlongs from home before proving incapable of sustaining the effort. There was further conspicuous promise on his only subsequent start, where he chased home Michael Bell's smart performer Sovereign Debt in a minor event at Newmarket, once again impressing with the manner in which he travelled.
The William Haggas-trained colt will make his handicap debut on Saturday and, given that he has only raced four times, it is entirely possible that Mukhadram will eventually prove far superior to the official rating of 101 he has been allotted. However, the Cambridgeshire, run over the unusual distance of nine furlongs, often provides a unique test, placing demands on a horse that fully tests their ability, resolution and resilience. It is not ideal to rely on a horse with such little experience, particularly of racing amongst a field of hardened handicappers, and, given that Mukhadram is trading towards the head of the market at 10.519/2, there are potentially other horses which offer greater value.
Chil The Kite has improved with each run this year, impressing with the way he quickened to secure a brace of handicaps in midsummer. Following a short break, he continued on his upward trajectory, producing a good effort to finish fourth when stepped up to listed level at Haydock last time. Hughie Morrison's colt stayed on powerfully in that one-mile event, leaving the firm impression that he has the stamina to make his mark over further, and it looks as if he will get the chance to prove that theory on Saturday. However, he has displayed some quirks, notably when hanging right under pressure, and, though he demands consideration, his price of 10.09/1, whilst possibly on the big side, hasn't quite got enough juice in it to tempt us.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what type of horse you need to win an event such as this, but you are probably giving yourself a fair chance by selecting one with the right blend of experience and untapped potential; King's Warrior fits this mould. Relatively lightly raced for a five-year-old, Peter Chapple-Hyam's gelding ran out an authoritative winner of the John Smith's Cup, looming up on the bridle in menacing fashion before delivering a decisive turn of foot to turn a seemingly competitive handicap into a procession.
Deliberately kept fresh since, King's Warrior will have to contend with a 10 lb rise in the weights for that comfortable success, a burden partially offset by his trainer's shrewd decision to acquire the services of the highly-rated 5 lb claimer Michael J M Murphy. He was comfortably the last horse off the bridle in that ten-furlong contest at York, really impressing with the manner in which he cruised into contention, and it is difficult to envisage him lacking the speed for Saturday's nine-furlong test. He currently trades at 16.5, which, considering the way he took apart the John Smith's Cup field, appears to be good value.
There are, of course, any number of likely dangers in a race comprising a potent mixture of unexposed improvers and veteran handicappers. Start Right has failed to register victory since 2010, but he has been shaping nicely of late, his recent effort at Sandown being a particular case in point. He finished with plenty of running left on that occasion, not getting the clearest of runs having made decent headway off a steady pace, and the Cambridgeshire, which is invariably a strongly-run affair, promises to play to the strengths of the Godolphin challenger.
Mijhaar is another horse that holds obvious claims of finally landing that elusive big handicap success. Having always possessed a lofty reputation, it is perhaps disappointing that Roger Varian's colt is yet to land a big prize, his keen-going nature often counting against him in the closing stages. His jockey may well find it easier to settle him in the early stages should the anticipated frenetic gallop prevail, and, given his latent talent, he is not one you would want to write off.
There are a couple of intriguing contenders lurking towards the bottom of the handicap, but unfortunately they are so far down the weights they are unlikely to get a run, and will instead, more than likely, have to settle for the Silver Cup on Friday. Nanton and Strictly Silver are the pair I am talking about. The former has made the frame in the Cambridgeshire on three occasions, seemingly very well suited to coming fast and late off a strong gallop. He has been given a chance by the assessor this term and, should he make the cut, will compete off a 15 lb lower mark than when fourth in last year's renewal. Strictly Silver has looked most progressive this year, going close in several well-contested handicaps and is another who will merit close consideration should he sneak into the race.
It would be little surprise were any of the unexposed three-year-olds such as Mukhadram or Chil The Kite to make a mockery of their handicap mark, but the betting largely anticipates this scenario. Instead, the recommendation at this stage is to back King's Warrior, who, for such an impressive winner of a valuable handicap last time, represents good value at 16.5 .
Back King's Warrior to win the Cambridgeshire at 16.5.