Other than eventual winner Librisa Breeze, NUNO TRISTAN (NAP) (best price 16-1) was the last horse off the bridle in the Victoria Cup at Ascot last week and he looks destined to run another huge race if, correctly predicted, his draw towards the potentially favoured far side of the track turns out to be the golden highway (yesterday’s straight track winners Take and Cover and Final Reckoning raced on newly-opened up fresh ground). The way he travelled at the Berkshire venue pointed towards a horse who is now becoming well versed in running flat out in these big-field sprint handicaps and having that good tactical speed for six furlongs and enough stamina to get seven is a vital ingredient associated with many of these big heritage handicap winners nowadays. Looking at the pace map, Richard Fahey’s charge is drawn close to the likes of front runners Seeking Magic (drawn 8) and Hoofalong (drawn 11) and if his talented apprentice, Adam McNamara, can produce his mount to challenge on the freshest part of the track towards the far side rail, the son of Henrythenavigator has a fine chance of playing a big part in the outcome of this competitive contest.
In what looks a tremendous three-year-old staying handicap, the two that offer the best value at the prices are EMPEROR NAPOLEON (best price 11-1) and KNIGHTS TABLE (best price 12-1). The former represents a yard in fine form at present and he, himself, arrives here bang on the money following a convincing display at Bath last time out. Staying on strongly in the latter stages having cut out most of the running, Andrew Balding’s charge pulled nicely clear of subsequent winner St Michel, and with the time figure backing up the visual impression, the performance can be upgraded. On top of the list of positives, his previous form tied in with the likes of the classy trio, Red Cardinal, Red Verdon and King George Handicap winner, Primotivo, and even though he could with a bit more cut in the ground in an ideal world, his double-figure quotes are tempting enough to offset that slight negative.
The latter also arrives here in top shape having won his last three starts and even though those performances may have been at a slightly lower level, his speed figures and manner of victories suggest he could be up to this sort of standard. The one thing that James Tate’s charge has exhibited in those displays is a combination of stamina and a nice turn of foot, and those qualities will be a major asset in a race of this nature.
Westerner Lady is likely to prove a popular choice given her win last time out and the form of her yard this week, but the value call lies in looking beyond the obvious in the shape of PLAIN TALKING (best price 9-1) and DELEGATE (best price 14-1). The former needs no introduction having landed a decent prize for shrewd connections here three days ago and given that she would have won even easier but for a bad mistake at the last, there may be more to come from Gavin Cromwell’s charge. The latter was quietly fancied to run a big race in a useful novices’ event earlier in the week, but unfortunately for his backers, he stumbled and unseated his rider on the flat going past the stands. Prior to that unfortunate incident, the son of Robin Des Champs rubber-stamped his current wellbeing with back-to-back victories at Roscommon and this kind of examination should suit this strong-travelling, uncomplicated type.
Whichever way you dissect this valuable and prestigious prize, DANCING STAR (best price 13-2) simply has to go onto the shortlist courtesy of her progression and the solid-looking nature of her recent success at Newmarket. The way she stayed on strongly up the hill in the latter stages suggests Andrew Balding’s filly has a real appetite for a well-run, big-field handicap and with the second and fifth going on to fight out the finish of a similar race back at the same track subsequently, the form looks totally reliable.
Although Dandy Nicholls has the warm favourite in the shape of Orions Bow, it might well be that stable companion, KIMBERELLA (best price 14-1) flies the flag for the Yorkshire handler based on his latest performance at York. Always travelling the best on the Knavesmire a week ago, the son Kyllachy had the race won within a twinkling of an eye with a nice turn of foot inside the distance and on the evidence of that performance - along with numerous others this season - it’s safe to say he’s a much better horse than the one that finished six lengths behind Magical Memory in this race twelve months ago.
Both BEAU SATCHEL (best price 11-4) and CAIRDIUIL (best price 8-1) reaffirmed their love affair with Ballybrit based on their performances here this week and they look primed to go well again with plenty in their favour. The former landed a proper gamble when capturing a 7f handicap on the second day of the meeting and this looks a decent opportunity for Ado McGuiness’ charge to add another victory to his course CV with the useful Oisin Orr taking off the whole 6lb penalty he picked up for that success.
Although that latter failed in his bid to land a similar punt a day later, Iggy Madden’s inmate still covered himself with glory at the ripe old age of 10. Indeed, had he not been interfered with several times – including close home – it may well have been a different story and the first-time visor might just help him hold his position a little better than he was able to three days ago.