Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has six tips for today's meetings.
ARECIBO (best price 9-1) has been called one or two rude names in the past, but those detractors were made to eat humble pie when the Robert Cowell-trained gelding hosed up over today’s C&D on debut for new connections and with fitness and ability to handle track assured, he’s fancied to outstrip his current rating and morning odds respectively.
Often the bridesmaid but never the bride in some of the most hotly-contest handicaps run in the last two seasons, 50k might have seemed north of expensive when heading to the Autumn Sale in October, but on the evidence of what we saw of him here a month ago, he might turn out to be a shrewd purchase by the eagle-eyed Tom Morley. Nursed into contention by Oisin Murphy in a race run at a sound pace, it was just a question of whether of what he found off the bridle in the closing stages and the answer was very much in the affirmative. Despite him being the second lowest rated horse here this afternoon, the reality is there’s not much between high-end handicaps and Group races and with the irrepressible Tom Marquand taking over in the saddle, the mercurial character looks set to give his new connections a fair crack of the whip.
MINELLACELEBRATION (best price 5-1) hails from a yard who has hit a bit of a purple patch of late and with an enviable record of 3-3 at today’s venue, Katy Price’s gelding rates a fair bet to continue his love affair with the Midland venue.
Although getting on in years, the 11-year-old can still perform to a very high standard, and his victory at Aintree back in October only served to show how good he can be when bringing his A-game to the table. Always travelling well that day, the son of King’s Theatre readily disposed of a decent field and his time figure he posted also indicated he’d run to a career high. Sadly, he has failed to finish on three of his last four starts, but being as two of those unseats weren’t entirely his own fault, a certain amount of leniency is afforded in his direction. Winner of this race two years in succession and the summer plate when last seen here last July, this admiral stayer has his ideal conditions in place in order to run to his very best and at the morning prices, he makes plenty of each-way appeal.
The 2000 Guineas is always an eagerly anticipated race in the calendar by everyone concerned in the racing industry and this year’s renewal is no different, with a whole host of potentially top-class prospects going to post. As history dictates, Aidan O’Brien is usually the man to follow in the first Classic of the season, however, with three stellar colts set to do battle for Ballydolye – all of whom showed solid Group 1 form at two - knowing which one will pass the test is a tricky conundrum. That said, if you use the best race for juveniles as a guide, The Dewhurst run over the Rowley course in October, there’s little doubt WEMBLEY (best price 11-2) was pound-for-pound the best horse in the race and he’s fancied to confirm that viewpoint and uphold the form with those well beaten in behind.
Slightly unfortunate not to land the National Stakes given how the race panned out, the son of Galileo went to post at HQ fancied in many quarters despite his tricky low draw, but as it turned out, his position down the middle of the track ended being his undoing and he had to settle for the silver medal. The way he cut down his main rivals from the back of the field that day, though, including the likes of Thunder Moon, Chindit and Poetic Force, left an indelible impression, and providing he’s close to fever pitch after his 203-day absence, a likely cool ride from the back of the pack should reap rewards towards the business end.
If the Ballydoyle battalions don’t take home the prize this year, it could well be that Godolphin strike gold and if so, there’s a decent chance it will be with ONE RULER (best price 11-1).
It must have been a difficult decision for William Buick to desert Out Ruler in favour of Master Of The Seas, but working on theory recency bias has a big influent and, it’s hard to get off a horse who has just won a bona-fide trial, it’s easy to see why the stable jockey has stayed loyal to the Craven winner. A top-class two-year-old, One Ruler only narrowly failed to round off his excellent season in the Futurity Stakes at Doncaster on account of the very bad ground, but his performance in defeat only served to prove what a tough character he is. Prior to that slight reversal, Charlie Appleby’s colt had shown his liking for today’s venue with a smooth success in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes on ground that he coped with rather than enjoyed and with the runner-up, Van Gogh, going on to record a Group 1 success subsequently, the form looks pretty solid. A smooth traveller with a neat turn of foot, today’s better ground will suit and, handily drawn right down the middle, some nice early cover should result in maximum rewards at the finish.
Old Cheltenham rivalries are renewal with the first, third and fourth in the Triumph Hurdle locking horns again, but despite that trio appearing the most obvious winning-finding route, SAINT SAM (best price 10-1) might just have something to say in the final outcome.
Having seen the backside of Quilixios and Zanahiyr all season, it’s seems inconceivable that he could turn around the form with his old rivals but, let’s not forget, he’s trained by Willie Mullins and, as we’ve seen with the Closutton handler during this week, anything is possible at the moment. Additionally, apart from Honeysuckle winning here yesterday – and it was only just in the end – it’s been a pretty poor week for Henry De Bromhead, not to mention Denise Foster, who has seen most of hers fail to beat the ambulance home, so it would be a brave man who bets that pair at odds-on combined. Going back to the son of Saint Des Saints, and his run in the Boodles under top weight carries even more weight behind it given what the winner, Jeff Kidder, has gone on to achieve since (8th and 13th also won subsequently) and with the hood on again which seemed to work wonders at Cheltenham, he rates the percentage each-way call. Based on stable form and the likelihood of him improve significantly after just his second start under rules in the Triumph, stable mate Haut En Couleurs could turn out to be the chief threat.
Willie Mullins has been in unstoppable form all week and it’s not just the graded races where he’s been cleaning up, handicaps have been a rich source of success too. Just to make life difficult for
punters, the Closutton maestro sends eight to post for this viciously-competitive and of the octet, LADY BREFFNI (best price 12-1) makes the most appeal at the morning odds.
A model of consistency throughout her career, the daughter of Yeats has managed to hit the bullseye twice this season and with the latest of those successes coming in a similar contest at Fairyhouse last month, her confidence levels are at an all-time high. Staying on strongly at the Co Meath venue, the seven-year-old ran down an ultra-competitive field, that included subsequent easy winner Capadano, and with the speed figure also endorsing the race in question, her performance deserves plenty of praise. A previous winner over today’s C&D earlier in the campaign and with a career record of never being out of the first four in 10 starts, Lady Breffni has the sort of reliability factor that makes her an automatic each-way choice.