Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has five tips for today's meetings, including a NAP at Ayr.
You’d think the handicapper had totally lost his marbles by putting up a SENSE OF WORTH (best price 5-1) 15lb for winning by a nose here last time out, but there’s every chance the assessor has judged Andy Oliver’s gelding correctly and this powerhouse of a five-year-old is taken to back up that viewpoint in this much higher grade.
The son of Street Sense first sprung to prominence on his first outing on the all-weather here back in March when runner-up to the decent winner Pride Of Pimlico over a mile and he went on to fill out the same position behind the in-form It That Love two weeks later. On each occasion, the five-year-old appeared to lack the necessary gear change to operate against horses who could quicken over that sort of trip, so it made sense to step him up to the extended 1m2f journey for his latest venture. Travelling supremely well throughout, he got to the front laughing at his opponents turning for home and having dashed nicely clear with over a furlong to run, his propensity to wander around and gaze at the stalls handlers collected on the inside of the track almost ended up costing him victory. Clearly much better than that eventual winning margin suggested, he now looks in the sort of grade he probably belonged in the first place, and with today’s dry surface due to lack of rain likely to mean the track will ride pretty slow this afternoon, his powerful physique should give him a handy advantage over his nine opponents.
The form of the County Hurdle has stood the test based on most of the performances of the main players since and even though ANNA BUNINA (best price 17-2) has a bit to find with Milkwood on their respective runs at the Festival, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world to see John McConnell’s mare turn around the form.
Sent off a 125-1 at the Festival, the daughter of Poet’s Voice looked to be doing her starting price justice as the field hurtled down the hill, but in the latter stages of the well-run contest, she really picked up in pleasing style and by the time she’s reached to summit of the hill, she’d ticked off plenty of big-named scalps. Finishing just in behind her chief opponent here this afternoon, it makes little sense either whey she should be chalked up three times the price and with loads of fast ground form to call upon from home soil, today’s lively conditions for the time of year should suit her better than most.
NUGGET (best price 9-2) shaped with a huge amount of promise on his return to action at Nottingham last time out and this consistent four-year-old looks primed to go well again in a race likely to play into his strengths.
Fairly lightly-raced last season, the son of Siyouni managed to land a couple of prizes in just four starts and with the defining feature of those two victories being a decisive turn of foot, it is hoped he could carry that trait into this campaign against the more experienced, older handicappers. Based on his opening effort at the Midland venue 11 days, everything seems to be in full working order and with the challenges of today’s big-field contest set to suit the way he likes to be covered up and delivered late, the consistent and likeable gelding can pave the way to another fine season in these big weekend handicaps.
Of those searching for something at a bigger price, both Gin Palace and History Writer may have more going for them than their morning odds suggest. The former has posted some useful time figures in the past and is 2-2 over today’s C&D, while the latter caught the with a desperate run in the Lincoln on his seasonal reappearance.
Cast your mind back to this meeting in 2018 and DINGO DOLLAR (NAP) (best price 11-1) was narrowly denied in the big three-mile novices handicap chase and now a full three years on and in the care of new connections, Sandy Thomson’s gelding has a fine chance to atone for that agonising defeat in a race which is tailor made for his skills.
A useful chaser in his prime when in the care of Alan King, the nine-year-old rather lost his way towards the tail end of his association with the Barbury Castle handler and he was taken away to pastures new in a bid to find a new lease of life up north. Having his first run from his Lambden base at Newcastle last month and fitted with the first-time tongue-tie, the son of Golden Lariat settled into a lovely rhythm at the Gosforth Park venue and even though he got taken on for the lead at times, he ultimately proved way too strong for his five opponents at the business end. Clocking a very useful time for the grade, it’s noticeable he also managed to run the final circuit eight seconds quicker than the 2m4f handicap chase on the same card, so it has come as no surprise to see the form work out so well since with the likes of Blaklion running a blinder in the Grand National since and Bafana Boy (beaten 41 lengths) scoring at Wetherby next time.
Looking at the run styles of many of the previous winners of this race, a positive ride towards the head of affairs is never a bad thing, so providing the chestnut can obtain a good position through the early exchanges, there’s every chance this good ground lover will provide his supporters and connections with a great spin.
MAJOR POWER (best price 9-4) has been one of the prominent forces in these sort of seven-furlong handicaps for the last year or so and even though he takes on another strong field off a career-high mark, Edward Lynam’s powerful grey is fancied to grind out another solid performance.
Looking back to January 2019, it’s hard to believe the son of Bated Breath failed to finish in the frame off a mark of just 61, but since that defeat, he’s gone from strength-to-strength with form figures over today’s C&D that read 11121. Indeed, his latest victory at the Co Louth venue a month ago bears testimony to his progress and even though his winning margin was only half a length, he left the impression he was always in control and if anything, just saving a bit for himself due to lack of competition close home. Although he’s flirted with 6f and a mile in recent times, a positive ride over today’s trip is the way he likes to roll and with exception of the similarly progressive Alhaazm, he’s pretty much taken care of most of today’s opposition in the past.