Betfair Ambassador Hugo Palmer has two runners on Saturday including Qassem in the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket...
"Qassem arrives at the top of his game, and has shown himself fully effective over a mile on his last two starts, but stays further, which is helpful in a race like this."
I have to say the rain which has arrived at Newmarket was not entirely welcome in terms of my Friday runners, but it is good news for Qassem, who has shown his best form with ease underfoot, and the softening of the ground would help him no end.
We had high hopes with both Ascription and Short Squeeze for this in previous years, but the ground went against them in the end, and it was a similar story in the November Handicap last year with Qassem, so it's just nice to lay one out for a big handicap and get the right going conditions.
Qassem arrives at the top of his game, and has shown himself fully effective over a mile on his last two starts, but stays further, which is helpful in a race like this.
It would be going overboard to describe him as well handicapped off 99, but the nature of the big handicaps has changed; the days when an unexposed three-year-old would win under eight stone have long gone, and the narrow weight range means there is less focus on how well treated you are, and more on getting the breaks on the day.
We're drawn in stall 32 of 35, and while the effect of the draw in races like this is only really clear after the event, it's probably better to be drawn close to one of the rails than to be stuck in the middle, and there is a possibility of fresher ground on the stands side given that racing on Friday took place on the far side with the stalls positioned there, as they will be for Saturday's racing.
I was worried about the soft ground here last time for Hyperfocus, but he took to it like the proverbial duck to water, winning impressively; it will be pretty heavy this weekend, and such ground asks even stiffer questions, but I'm hopeful he'll cope with it.
He was sick earlier in the season, and is lightly raced as a result, with his win last time coming on his first run after being gelded. I feel there is plenty more improvement left in him, and for once the handicapper hasn't been harsh with a 5lb rise for his win here. All in all, I'm feeling very positive about his prospects.