Tony Calvin discusses the racing on ITV on Saturday afternoon and backs two that could thrive on soft ground at Goodwood as well as one at Newmarket...
"There are negatives but he looks set to get his optimum conditions here – a decent handicap mark, plenty of cut and a strong pace to aim at – and the price is acceptable."
The recent wet weather has really taken its toll on the field sizes in the ITV races on Saturday. Only two of the contests have attracted more than seven runners, and I suspect we could see a few non-runners in the next 24 hours, too after Thursday night's rain.
It could well be heavy across the ITV board by Saturday morning.
But we are where we are, and at least we can proceed on the basis of (very) soft ground at Goodwood, and that the 10-runner 7f handicap at 14:25 should stand up sufficiently so that each-way punters will get three places for their money.
Alemaratalyoum can handle the pace
Even though there are only 10 runners, there is tons of pace in here - Jack's Point, Cardsharp, Magical Wish, Breath Of Air and Monoski have all gone forward in recent starts - and theoretically that should suit a closer.
Of course, it doesn't always work out like that - it would be naïve to think the jockeys don't have a chat beforehand - but I'd be confident this will not be run at a dawdle anyway, and that will suit the likes of Alemaratalyoum, Cold Stare and Battered.
Unfortunately, none of those come in here at the top of their game.
In fact, only Magical Wish and Breath Of Air do - Milltown Star, gelded since his French Listed race win last November, is having his first start of the season - and they were never likely to be missed in the market.
I can see the case for Battered as the course and distance winner will love the ground off his falling handicap mark, but I am going to split my stakes on Alemaratalyoum and Cold Stare.
I nearly put the former up ante-post at 25/1 on Tuesday in anticipation of the ground turning soft, but I decided to hold fire, not least because his last two runs have been so dire!
The stable have basically been in poor form since racing resumed on June 1, but you can ignore Alemaratalyoum's run from a wide draw at Chester last time, as his rider made a lot of use of him early and rode him prominently, which was never going to suit this hold-up performer.
At least he has come down a further 2lb for the run and gets his favoured underfoot conditions again (his best efforts have come on soft and heavy ground) off a winnable mark.
He is just 1lb higher than winning by four lengths here last September, and he is 2lb lower than when a good third at Epsom three starts ago, despite the ground that day probably being too quick for him (that did not stop him trading at 1.548/15 in-running).
There are negatives, as I have outlined, but he looks set to get his optimum conditions here - a decent handicap mark, plenty of cut and a strong pace to aim at - and the price is acceptable, despite it heading south throughout Friday.
Back him at 10.09/1 or bigger.
Cold Stare deserves second chance on soft ground
I ended doing a fair few quid when Cold Stare disappointed at Newbury last time, but I am prepared to forgive him that run as they finished strung out like washing there and I am inclined to put a line through the race.
I know the official going was soft and that should have suited him, but maybe it was that drying, tacky, holding ground that only very few horses enjoy (and very few did that day). And Newbury can be a funny track, although I was not laughing when Cold Stare could only manage seventh.
Anyway, rightly or wrongly, I am ignoring the run and hoping he gets proper, sloshy soft here. It can rain as much as it likes for a horse his trainer describes as the most ground-dependent he has.
That may not strictly be true as he had earlier run well enough on officially good ground at Haydock, but there is no doubt he loves it deep, as he showed when winning by two lengths and more on heavy at that track last season.
He is now 3lb lower in the weights, and he has shown enough in two Haydock starts this season to suggest he has a handicap in him.
Hopefully, this is it, as I am backing him again at 12.011/1 or bigger. Both of my selections were 16/1 with the Sportsbook on Thursday but those prices were never going to last in the face of the rain on Thursday, and with possibly more to come on Friday afternoon onwards (in fact, they had a hefty old, and prolonged, downpour at around 2pm while I was tidying up this piece).
I hope even more arrives in spades, especially for Cold Stare.
I do fear Monoski if the ground isn't too bad - I hope it is - as he has been dropped 13lb in a quick space of time, and he has been gelded since his last run too, but he has his stamina to prove if it rides testing, for all he finished fourth in the National Stakes last season.
The rest of the Goodwood card...
The beautifully bred Pomelo justified favouritism in style on her debut at Newbury and it isn't a great surprise to see her installed as marginally the market leader for the Group 3 Prestige Stakes at 13:50 ahead of the form horses who are proven in this grade. It was interesting to see her trainer immediately namecheck this race for her after the Newbury win.
With the exception of Seattle Rock, however, this will be the softest ground any of these have encountered - in fact, looking at some of the pictures of a rain-sodden Newmarket on Friday afternoon, it will be - so there is a bit more guesswork than usual here, and it makes no betting appeal to me.
The same applies to the four-runner March Stakes at 15:00, although perhaps the outsider of the party, Table Mountain, maybe has a bit more going for her than her price suggests.
Her official mark of 91 gives her plenty to find with his three rivals but she impressed at Ascot last time, and she is clearly open to any amount of improvement after just five starts.
But whether this ground is what she wants is an unknown, and her three much higher-rated opposition do all have form with plenty of ease, so her odds of around 8/1 are probably not that much of a bargain, after all.
I am surprised that as many as seven were confirmed for the Celebration Mile on Thursday morning given the ground was already good to soft at the course, with a dire rest-of-the-day in store and more showers forecast throughout Friday.
That is certainly not ideal for Benbatl (pictured above), Regal Reality and Duke Of Hazzard on all known form - and the same is probably true of Urban Icon and Positive, too - so maybe the bet on Century Dream is staring us in the face here in the 15:35.
Benbatl is clearly the stand-out on form but beneath him there is little between Century Dream, Regal Reality and Duke Of Hazzard on official ratings, and there is little doubt that the Crisford combo's horse is likely to be best suited by the ground out of those three.
He is versatile as regards the going but I was quite taken aback by how good his record was on soft, which included a narrow third in the QEII at Ascot in 2018.
He wasn't at his best on good ground in France last time, but that was in Group 1 company and over a 1m1f trip that may stretch his stamina in that grade, and his earlier all-the-way Newbury win reads well enough.
However, the early 8/1 on Thursday with the Betfair Sportsbook has gone (now 11/2) and his price has ebbed away, so I am going to give him a reluctant swerve with his odds shortening a good deal, with a Rule 4 or two to add on top, I imagine.
Sextant can bounce back at Windsor
The two similar Windsor Listed/Group 3 races on ITV have predictably cut up badly to just six runners in each contest - from 18 and 16 at the five-day stage - but at least they have both remained classy renewals, despite each-way betting not being an option in either.
In the 1m3f99yd Listed race at 14:40 Communique, controversially taken out of the Ebor, promises to get a solo on the front end, though Sextant has made the running before.
He has not been in the best of form of late, and finished behind Desert Encounter and Le Don De Vie (with Alounak fifth) at Goodwood two starts ago, but it wouldn't surprise me at all were he to bounce back to form and I can easily see him bossing these if getting in front on the rail here.
But it's a trappy little heat, and I would be forcing a bet and a tip to a large agree, and I can leave it alone.
And, as at Goodwood, I expect non-runners too, with the ground turned to soft (heavy in places) after 17.4mm of rain on Thursday.
Communique's stablemate Sky Defender is also likely get on the front end in the 1m2f Listed race at Windsor at 15:15.
The one I liked most in here was King Ottakar, but I was quite taken aback when I saw how short he was when the market was reformed on Thursday.
He was only a neck behind Fox Chairman when third in soft ground in the Hampton Court last season, and maybe a gelding operation and a first-time visor will keep his mind on the job here.
He actually ran an eye-catching race in the Wolferton last time, travelling really well into the race from the back of the field and not being subjected to a hard ride at all in the straight, and I thought maybe he had a physical problem there.
His trainer believes he simply "didn't put in an ounce though", and he reports him to be working nicely again. However, I wanted more for my cash than odds of around 7/2 on the Exchange, given he definitely has questions to answer.
Ventura Rebel rates a bet at Newmarket
My decision to take an ante-post punt at 12/1 on Aristocratic Lady in the 6f Listed race at Newmarket at 14:05 backfired as she is a no-show.
I feared as much, and made the risks known in the piece on Tuesday, but it is still annoying, so apologies if you backed her.
Mind you, after 17mm of rain on Thursday night turning the ground soft, and more forecast, I suspect she could well have been withdrawn on the day even if entered.
In her absence - and she could go to Deauville on Sunday, by the way, so I may see if there are any prices knocking about for her in tomorrow's column - then Summerghand is the obvious port of call.
Soft ground should not be a problem for him, as he has plenty of form in the mud, including here.
However, he won't mind it if they get no more rain there either - heavy ground may be pushing it for him - as his Stewards' Cup last time (in first-time cheek pieces, which are retained here), came on quick ground, and that form makes him the pick of the weights here.
That said, Jash was rated 5lb higher than him just two starts ago, and he didn't shape too badly on his return at Newcastle earlier in the month.
Summerghand is probably a fair bet at 3/1+ if the ground does not deteriorate by the off on Saturday, but that obviously makes him a watching brief until then.
Of the others, Shabaaby is two from two on soft, and Ventura Rebel and Brad The Brief will be fine on the ground, so maybe look there if you want an alternative.
So I looked, and decided Ventura Rebel was sufficiently overpriced at 8.415/2 or bigger on the Exchange to get the tipping vote.
It could well be the deepest ground he has encountered, but the only time he has faced soft ground he put up a career best in finishing a neck second in the Norfolk Stakes.
He has finished third in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup this season and he was never ideally positioned after a tardy start in a slowly-run 7f Listed race at York last time, although that performance was a touch laboured it has to be said.
But back to 6f on soft ground in a winnable Listed race, the 3yo rates a bet at 7/1+
Best of luck.
Ventura Rebel at 8.415/2 or bigger in 14:05 at Newmarket
Alemaratalyoum at 10.09/1 or bigger in 14:25 at Goodwood
Cold Stare at 12.011/1 or bigger in 14:25 at Goodwood
Aristocratic Lady win-only at 12/1 in 14:05 at Newmarket. NON-RUNNER