Seven picks from Andy Holding ahead of Saturday's racing.
Waldgeist should turn out to be a cut above of today’s opposition if repeating any of his top-class Group 1 form, but the fight for the places looks to be up for grabs with many of his rivals much of a muchness of late. Of those towards the forefront of this list of candidates to chase the favourite home, DANEHILL KODIAC (best price 11-2) makes the most appeal on account of his solid track form. Yet to run a bad race on his three previous visits to the Berkshire venue, Richard Hannon’s inmate has been in cracking form on his three outings so far this season and the way he stayed on last time at Newbury indicated a return to a stiffer test may suit.
PERSUASIVE (best price 11-4) has proven herself to be a genuine Group 1 filly this season with excellent efforts in the Prix De Rothchild and Matron Stakes respectively and if repeating her performance in the latter of those two events on her most recent outing, she should take all the beating here today. Held up off the back strong fractions at the Dublin venue 28 days ago, John Gosden’s charge was set an impossible task the way the race panned out, but her closing sectional of 34.9 from the 3f pole, was by some way the best split time on the star-studded eight-race card (Decorated Knight 35.5 next best when winning the Irish Champion Stakes). On the evidence of what we saw that day and the clock, the daughter of Dark Angel should confirm form with Qemah and with the trainer/jockey combination riding on the crest of a wave at present, the duo look set to bag another big-race winner.
Probably not the classiest renewal of this sought-after prize, so it might well be FOXTROT LADY (best price 20-1) has enough quality to make some sort of impact at a big price. Although still yet to win in four starts, her performance in a hot maiden at Newbury last time out was a very useful one on the speed figures and with the winner, Beshaayir, held in some regard at the William Haggas stable, the daughter of Foxwedge easily run some way beyond her current rating. The fact that she drifted to her left slightly at the Berkshire venue should be ironed out with a rail to help (drawn one) and as that far side of the track is never seen as a bad place to be in recent times, hopefully Cam Hardie will stick to his draw and make good use of the potentially favourable track position.
In what surely has to be one of the most tricky-looking handicaps to solve of the entire season on account of there being so many track specialists, both MJJACK (best price 12-1) and BURNT SUGAR (best price 14-1) have shown enough solid form over today’s C&D to warrant a small interest. On his two previous visits to the track, the former has had to be carried out on his shield and his most recent of those performances when runner-up to the very smart course specialist, Remarkable, has to be marked down as another step in the right direction for Karl Burke’s game grey. Looking at the ground yesterday and there still appeared to be sufficient moisture in the surface to make it quite hard work for the horses down the straight and those conditions, which clearly suit this three-year-old best, should enable him to grind it out better than most. Although in the end he well beaten on his last visit here back in July (travelled well before coming unstuck on the soft ground late on), the latter has since left that form well behind and arriving here in excellent shape following a tremendous display on the figures at Leopardstown last time out, Roger Fell’s charge is simply too big a price to resist.
In-form Our Rachel could easily turn out to be well-handicapped on her return to winter game, but either way, she will have her work cut out coping with TOUGH BUT HONEST (NAP) (best price 7-2) who was a creditable second in what turned out to be a very strong contest for the grade at Listowel last time out. Heavily supported into favouritism at the Co Kerry venue, the son of Brian Boru looked like he was going to land the gamble so well did he travel, but in the end he had to play second fiddle to Granny Biddy who just did him for a turn of foot on the run-in. Moreover, the time figure of the race (particularly the final circuit sectional) suggested the first few home had all run to a pretty high standard and with Davy Russell having the sweetest hands in the game, this smooth-travelling sort will hopefully be produced with a well-timed challenge late on in the piece.
Plain and simply, Mullinavat would win this without breaking sweat if getting in as second reserve, but that’s very unlikely to happen given how few non-runners there are in Irish handicaps in general, so it should pay to foresee that scenario unfolding and to look elsewhere for some value.
SIERRA LAW (best price 15-2) just found the combination of very soft ground and the tight nature of Kilbeggan catching him out last time out, but with conditions and track layout much more suitable for his big frame this afternoon, he has a fine chance of getting back on track. Quite impressive when he dismantled a 20-strong field the time before around the wide-open spaces of Down Royal, Karl Thornton’s gave the impression that day he was quite a well-handicapped horse for this time of year, so providing the forecast is correct and the Co Meath track escapes any rain, the son of Lawman should be in his element.