Still Dreaming of Betfair Sprint Cup success
A couple of bookmakers briefly took Ten Sovereigns out of their Betfair Sprint Cup betting on Wednesday afternoon after Aidan O'Brien said at a St Leger press day that the July Cup winner was unlikely to run if the ground was soft.
That was more than a touch premature from the layers, especially given that O'Brien also added that the horse would still be entered - all horses should be kept in the market until officially withdrawn - and Ten Sovereigns duly featured in the 13 acceptors for the race at 10:00 on Thursday morning.
In fact, his market rival Advertise beat him to the punch in the withdrawal stakes when pulled out of the race on Friday morning with a bad scope.
Ten Sovereigns is clearly a very unlikely runner, but at the time of writing O'Brien hasn't pressed the ejector button yet. They could well wait until Saturday morning now, but keep an eye out for an official announcement anyway.
Very fortunately, I put up Dream Of Dreams each way at 12/1 and Waldpfad at 21.020/1 or bigger on the exchange in my ante-post column on Tuesday morning. The market has obviously moved in favour of both now, and Dream Of Dreams is clearly a very solid proposition.
He probably wasn't suited by a combination of factors - draw, very fast ground, undulating track and a quick 6f - in the July Cup, so I can forgive him that modest showing, and he clearly has leading strong claims on his Diamond Jubilee second to Blue Point.
Soft ground is no issue for this course winner, but I suppose it could be for Waldfpad as a lot of his form in Germany has come on a decent surface.
But he remains overpriced on the form he showed when convincingly defeating the subsequent runaway Stewards' Cup winner Khaadem at Newbury in July - and that did come on good to soft ground - and he didn't get the run of the race when coming from off the pace to finish second in a Group 2 at Baden Baden recently.
He needs to improve a fair deal, but the potential is there for a horse who stays a lot further, a fact that will stand him in good stead for what could be a stamina test at 6f.
You clearly can make a case for a lot of these in here at their respective prices, but I will stick with my ante-post plays, albeit I won't go in afresh. They would still be my recommendations, though, if you want a Saturday interest.
A 10/1 play in the Haydock opener
York runner-up First In Line is very much the right favourite in the opening 1m6f handicap at 13:50, but odds of around 3/1 fully factor in his leading chance in a competitive race.
I think Ranch Hand is very interesting stepping up to 1m6f off a fair mark, but I am going to throw a few quid at Trueshan at 10/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Alan King has his horses in excellent form - going into Friday, five of his last runners had won (including Trueshan) - and the selection makes a quick reappearance after winning a 1m4f Ffos Las novice under a 7lb penalty last week.
This handicap is a different kettle of finish but he was very strong at the finish last time (in a very good time) and, while his inexperience could obviously be an issue, we are at least dealing with a horse with plenty of upside after just three starts.
I like the angle of him stepping up to 1m6f and on soft ground too, as his pedigree strongly suggests it will suit. His sire Planteur loved testing ground, his dam won on heavy, and two of his half-brothers won with plenty of cut. The 1m6f isn't guaranteed on pedigree, but he shaped very much like a stayer last week.
'Crying out to be backed'
I don't have much interest in the 1m Group 3 race at 14:25 so I will skip straight on the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup at 15:35.
Time To Study is a horse I know well - maybe a bit too well - but he seems to be crying out to be backed at 12.011/1 or bigger. He is certainly not the most consistent, so it wouldn't be in the least surprising were he to blow out here, but if he runs to form I genuinely think he has a favourite's chance on ground he will love.
He was rated 108 last year but now founds himself running off 93, with Cieren Fallon taking a further 5lb off, and after a win in France last time.
I wouldn't profess to know the strength of that race - and the handicapper has ignored it, so he wasn't impressed - but the third has come out and won a 16-runner handicap since and at the very least it shows he is in good heart. And his non-staying third over 2m4f at Royal Ascot was another very solid effort this term.
He is 5lb lower than when a length third over course and distance in heavy ground in 2017 - his only start at this track - and everything looks in place for a massive run. Let's hope he gets out of his stable in the right frame of mind on Saturday morning.
I am also going to take a bit of a flier with Clever Cookie even though, at 11yo, he is the oldest in the field by four years. I thought he ran an absolute cracker when a 66/1 seventh at York on his return and the softer ground here will be very much in his favour, too.
His current handicap mark clearly underlines that he is a waning force these days but that reappearance run showed me that the old fires could still be burning enough to win a prize like this, and he will relish these conditions.
He wasn't wearing his usual cheek pieces at York - he wore them when winning the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup in 2016 (yes, I know that was his last victory) - but they are back on here and hopefully this has been the plan for a while. He is a bet at 34.033/1 or bigger.
Others in the race that I fear are Crystal King in a first-time visor, and Blakeney Point.
Another Batt can score at Ascot
It's a pretty day on ITV, with two races apiece at Ascot and Kempton as well, so I may as well get the turf action out of the way first.
There are two very tricky handicaps at Ascot, but I think outsider Another Batt is worth a small interest in the 7f handicap at 14:45.
A draw in one concerns me - a berth on the flanks always does - but the handicapper has certainly given him every chance, dropping him 13lb since he won at Meydan in January, and I am banking that the return to Ascot will see him be very competitive.
He didn't shine under today's 7lb claimer Angus Villiers at Chelmsford last time but he has edged down another 2lb for it, and some of his better efforts have been at this track.
He finished eighth to Raising Sand in a valuable handicap here in July, and he is now 8lb lower than when fourth to Sharjah Bridge in the Balmoral at this track last October.
The ground should be fine for him, although he could maybe do with a shower of two, and I think he could well have been primed for his valuable prize on just his fifth start for Richard Hughes.
Certainly, his apprentice Villiers has been making his name for himself in recent weeks, and Another Batt looks worth a nibble at 26.025/1 or bigger.
Arbalet could be a major player
Nothing really interests me in the 1m4f handicap on ITV later in the card - Travel On appealed most but nothing bet-worthy - so I am happy to have a second play in the 7f handicap in the shape of Arbalet at 15.014/1 or bigger.
I am betting win-only but the Betfair Sportsbook are offering an extra place if you are backing each-way, which I know some of you like to do.
The thing that strikes me about this race is how little pace there is - none are habitual front-runners, in fact - but Arbalet is one that can be ridden prominently and I just wonder whether he will go forward with the first-time blinkers (Hugo Palmer is five from 60 with this option since 2011) on.
It could be a very good move if connections are alert to the possibilities of making the running.
He is another horse that the assessor has given a fairly hefty helping hand, having dropped him 4lb for his York run last time. So he is now 12lb lower than at the start of the campaign, and some 9lb lower than when splitting Burnt Sugar and Ripp Orf over course and distance on fast ground last season (he also finished fifth in the Jersey here).
It is not as if he has been totally out of form all season either, so he could be a major player here, with positive tactics hopefully adopted.
The survey says...
There is a pretty classy renewal of the September Stakes at Kempton, but the horse that I was most tempted by in ITV's two races was the outsider Family Fortunes in the 15:15.
I was going to leave the race alone - like a few trainers it seems, as how this contest hasn't got a full field for the money, I will never know - and spare you me regurgitating the old classic lines from the show of the same name.
But 25/1+ on the exchange has lured me in, so I may as well trot out everyone's favourite's moment from show, with a big shout-out to the person who answered "Naomi Campbell" to Les Dennis' question of "Name a bird with a long neck".
It doesn't get any better than that (well, if they do, they are a bit risqué for airing in this column.....). Anyway, back to horsey matters and you can see why Family Fortunes is one of the lesser lights in the betting, as he doesn't have the recent winning appeal of Kasbaan or Kuwait Currency. Indeed, he finished six lengths behind Kuwait Currency here last time.
However, he shaped a lot better than the bare form suggests, has been dropped 3lb for it, and hopefully 5lb claimer Scott McCullagh will sit him much closer to the pace than he did last time.
He knows the horse well, having won on him twice over track and trip, and the horse can race off the same mark as when striking the most recent of those victories in February.
His handicap mark and course form figures 1305512218 are very attractive when pitted against his price, and this strong traveller should get a solid pace to aim at with three of four of the opposition likely to go forward. He is worth a shot.