This Week's Plays
A 47-65 handicap for three-year-olds only with 16 runners is the type of race that many people run a mile from, but personally I really like the challenge they present and the value that can be found in them and my main fancy of the day comes in the Ladies Day June 20th At Gowran Park Handicap (15:25).
An angle that I am always keen to play into in seven-furlong handicaps at Gowran Park is the draw, as the turn comes up really quickly after the start and having a low draw is a significant advantage. Thankfully, I feel that this contest has just the right type of horse I want to exploit this angle with in the shape of the Pat Martin-trained No Way Jack.
While he has yet to win in seven starts, he has shown more than enough to suggest he can win in the right circumstances. He showed he can be competitive off this sort of mark when a never-nearer second to Cailin Mor in a six-furlong handicap at Fairyhouse in September, shaping as though a step up to seven furlongs would suit. He again came to attention on his seasonal reappearance over this course and distance, albeit on much softer ground, when he overcame being bumped early and not getting a clear run until a furlong out to finish a solid fifth in a race that is already working out well.
In my opinion, seven furlongs on a sound surface with a bit of cover are his optimum conditions and all being well all those boxes will be ticked for him today. He has an excellent draw and in recent starts he has been notably quick away from the stalls, so he should have no problem getting out and taking up the perfect slot in behind the leader on the rail.
He also has the aid of first-time cheekpieces which, while I didn't think he was crying out for them, are unlikely to do any harm. Obviously, there are plenty of unexposed horses in the field that could improve, but I am less fearful of unexposed three-year-olds over shorter trips such as this rather than I tend to be over middle distances. All in all, I am happy to side with him and will be disappointed if he doesn't go close.
My angle to the Family Fun Day June 21st At Gowran Park Handicap (17:00) isn't too dissimilar to the above and the one I want to be with is the Pat Flynn-trained Knights Templar. He is a grand old horse that has been on the go for a long time, but having been touched off at Limerick last June off a mark of 78, he hasn't really troubled the judge since and has consequently dropped to a mark of 56. Mind, he has shaped well on a couple of occasions despite having had precious few opportunities to tackle his optimum conditions, which I feel are a mile on a sound surface with cover.
He gets those conditions today, has an excellent draw and has the services of one of the best jockeys in Europe in Pat Smullen. While his return to action at this track was modest, conditions were not in his favour and he has tended to run much better on his second start of the season over the years. The main concern that I have is that Flynn hasn't hit form just yet, but there have been encouraging signs from his runners this week.
All told, he is worth taking a chance on at the prices in what is just an average handicap.
Back No Way Jack 2pts each-way @ 5.04/1 or better in the 15:25 at Gowran Park
Back Knights Templar 1pt e/w @ 11.010/1 or better in the 17:00 at Gowran Park