Lady to solve the nursery puzzle
The first race on Channel 4 this Saturday at 14:15 is the fillies' nursery at Newmarket. Ralph Beckett's Shozita looked above-average when scoring in nice fashion to take a Salisbury 6f maiden on good to firm. She cost plenty, and holds an entry in the Group 2 Rockfel later in the season. Not many faults can be found - other than the fact her win came in a steadily-run race.
You won't get much for your money I reckon, and we can go elsewhere.
Richard Hannon (and Dad) have won this a couple of times in recent seasons, and 'junior' sends out two in the shape of Somebody To Love and Lexington Sky. The former doesn't look to have too much in hand from a stiff looking mark of 91.
It could be worth following Richard Fahey here. Like Hannon, he saddles two in the race, and I prefer Lady In Question over Clef.
The pick has quite a few classy performers in her pedigree, and she proved herself over today's trip of 7f at Glorious Goodwood - seeing out the longer distance well despite racing keenly during that nursery. The winner Bear Valley looked quality that afternoon.
Lady In Question finished mid-division in the Super Sprint - a good effort considering she's not quick enough for that trip. She might just have more scope from her mark of 78 rather than Clef - who scraped home in a weaker race at Doncaster.
Escobar the class act, but can Tregoning filly go well?
Saturday's 14:30 Listed Washington Singer Stakes at Newbury was famed for providing a top horse or two back in the day. The great Lammtarra landed this on his only two-year-old outing in 1994, whilst Haafhd and Rodrigo de Triano also appear on the honours board. Last year's winner Epsom Icon is a good horse, but wouldn't hold a candle to those mentioned.
The most exciting juvenile here is Hugo Palmer's Escobar - who did everything wrong at the track but won going away by two lengths on his debut. He was the first winner for his sire Famous Name, and a tidy victor for anyone that got a chunk of the 80.079/1 in-running price. It will be interesting to see how he has come out of that appearance, as despite all his antics on debut, he clearly has a touch of class. But if there's any hint of misbehaving, I don't fancy taking a short price.
Of course the remit is to find something at bigger odds, not the easiest here, and this doesn't look the best punting race.
I will chuck a couple of quid at Marcus Tregoning's Argenterie however, who outran her massive odds at 66/1 to finish third at Glorious Goodwood in the fillies' maiden over 7f.
The winner of that race (Rhododendron) obviously looks classy with a stack of Group entries, but Argenterie wasn't too far behind, and the first and second had the benefit of a previous run. She's by Archipenko - who has produced 32 lifetime two-year-old winners, and the Kirsten Rausing-owned filly holds an entry in the Rockfel.
Her trainer Marcus Tregoning enjoyed his first juvenile winner of the season on Thursday.
Champagne time for Bob
It's not often a 0-80 handicap is televised, but the annual Newmarket race for greys comes at 14:45. The 'powers that be' could extend the rules to grey jockeys; even silver-haired owners for new races? There's a thought. I've often wanted a grey beard, but that's another story...
With a biggish field over 6f, hopefully they will charge through this sprint, which in theory, will suit Richard Price's four-year-old Champagne Bob.
I was going to write 'the grey' but that seems rather pointless for this contest.
The gelding (there we go) has raced a fair bit over 7f and 1m to date, and his recent outing at Haydock was his first ever try at 6f; a race in which he plugged on towards the end. Previously I thought he travelled like a horse slightly better than his mark at Newbury in a 0-75 handicap.
There's a bit of a doubt concerning quick ground, as he loves soft and he has raced only a couple of times with 'firm' in the description. However, he seemed to handle it fine, and he is very well-handicapped from a mark of 59. The booking of jockey Ed Greatrex is also a plus.
Fete to be the Newbury King?
The market for the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at 15:05 is dominated by Kings Fete, at around 4/5, I'm not sure we'll learn an awful lot about him today. In truth, I am very disappointed Godolphin's Secret Number hasn't been declared, as he held an entry in midweek. He looked perfect for the race, and I wasted about an hour's form study!
This usually has an international feel to it; and the famous collector of air miles Mount Athos was successful four years ago. It's a staying contest that could lead to a potential Melbourne Cup type. Therefore Kings Fete with his official rating of 112 would need a rise of about 4lb to put him in contention for a trip to Oz. The owner's representative Lord Grimthorpe has hinted at a foreign raid, whilst his trainer Sir Michael Stoute called him pretty special after winning at Goodwood in the Glorious Stakes.
His headstrong tendencies from the past seem to be gradually behind him. However, he is odds-on.
I sent for the help of Eddie Shoestring to try and find something else here in truth. Humphrey Bogart makes little appeal at 3/1, whilst Red Cardinal is 17lb inferior to Kings Fete - and he's won the small matter of just a Yarmouth handicap.
At around 8.07/1, Battersea might be able to outrun his odds. He loves good to firm ground, is honest, and stays well. His first outing of the season came at Newmarket in the Group 2 Princess Of Wales's Stakes - the race in which James McDonald stacked them up from the front. Previously he had a couple of spins in Meydan. He's just the sort of international staying type for this race. He'll also be fitter after his recent return.
Two well-handicapped runners for the sprint
A couple of personal favourites (for different reasons) have won this in the past. Hamza was a pure speedball, and I loved the fast front-runner's style. No nonsense. He took the honours in 2012, whilst Dafeef picked this up two years earlier - and he turned out to be an absolute rogue!
For this year's renewal of a typically hot three-year-old handicap at 15:20 from Newmarket - I'll keep it simple.
Two look very well-treated; Elronaq and Still On Top.
Elronaq had some decent Group 2 form alongside Shalaa in 2015, and jockey Paul Hanagan was very complimentary about him as a juvenile. At one stage he was rated 103, and with a few bad runs, he has dropped to 91. He bounced back to form at Yarmouth recently, and was unlucky there, as he was messed around by a loose horse. He also needs fast ground to excel.
The other is a massive price. Still On Top was a good two-year-old, but the project of running him over 7f and 1m hasn't worked. Back down to figure of 82 (some 14lb lower than his peak rating), hopefully the colt can take a step back in the right direction. Tim Easterby's three-year-old had some talent last year.
Fahey or Candy to crack Ripon feature
I'll have to keep this very short, as I am probably way over the word count. But there's a lot to cram in for eight races.
The feature in Yorkshire, the historic Great St Wilfrid at 15:55, will present the chance for me to back my old buddy Tatlisu. At 44.043/1, last year's Ayr Silver Cup hero has dropped down to an attractive mark at 94 and he's a huge price. He loves these sorts of races, and he'll be trying to pick his way through late.
The draw might be a big negative in five, so I'll throw one in on the other side. Henry Candy's Son Of Africa is housed in 20. He's often a keen-going type but does travel well. A big field should suit the four-year-old, and he represents a bet at around 22.021/1 from a dangerous mark. He has a low weight and the yard's horses are clearly in better nick after this week.
Spencer to fire with Valley at Newbury
Sixteen runners at the time of writing, here's hoping one doesn't come out for the 15:40 at Newbury. A fairly tough-looking 7f handicap.
With a clutch of three-year-olds in the line-up, they'll have their supporters. However, Valley Of Fire is racing from a dangerous mark of 86 and he's returned to form after a woeful start to the season.
His efforts from May to June earlier in the year were awful, and he was beaten out of sight in four runs over 7f at an aggregate total of 54 lengths. However, his trainer William Haggas was having a quiet time of things, and the yard were really struggling.
His horses have come back well, and so has Valley Of Fire. The gelding ran a blinder at York behind Felix Leiter in a 0-105, and he wasn't disgraced at Newmarket recently, a contest that turned into a dash. The winner that day Dutch Law has since won another good handicap.
VOF gives the impression he'll get a furlong further than today's trip, and personally I think he'll be better with an extreme waiting ride to pick them off, and he has the perfect pilot in Jamie Spencer. Good to firm ground suits, and he is well-handicapped judged on his two-year-old form.
For an each-way or place bet, Charles Molson at 21.020/1 has been a little unlucky this season, with Hector Crouch claiming 5lb and from a good mark too, he'll go better than his odds.
Can Markaz close the gap from Goodwood?
This 7f specialists' contest includes Hugo Palmer's Home Of The Brave. He will strut his stuff no doubt from the front - and can be a joy to watch with his aggressive, catch me if you can style. He beat Convey (who is back for today) at Haydock, and he was ahead of Markaz at Goodwood recently.
Markaz though might offer a bit more juice for the price. He ran in the 2015 renewal as a three-year-old, and over-raced in soft ground. He didn't quite last home. However he has turned into a proper horse at this trip, and isn't too far away on official ratings.
Quicker ground is ideal, but might find Home Of The Brave a tough nut to crack.
Saturday's Recommended Bets
Back Lady In Question @ 8.07/1 in the 14:15 at Newmarket
Back Argenterie @ 11.010/1 in the 14:30 at Newbury
Back Champagne Bob @ 13.012/1 in the 14:45 at Newmarket
Back Battersea @ 8.07/1 in the 15:05 at Newbury
Back Elronaq @ 9.08/1 and Still On Top @ 32.031/1 in the 15:20 at Newmarket
Back Valley Of Fire @ 14.50 in the 15:40 at Newbury
Back Tatlisu @ 44.043/1 and Son Of Africa @ 18.50 in the 15:55 at Ripon
Back Markaz @ 9.08/1 in the 16:10 at Newbury