I don’t like to dwell on the past for too long but it is always worth reflecting on an event such as Royal Ascot to see what you can learn for next time, and whether there are any horses worth keeping an eye on. The blog was -9 points for the week and clearly I could have done better…
The Kings’s Stand…
Well I picked the wrong outsider to focus on here but there were a couple of points of interest for me. Firstly Robert Cowell cemented his standing as king of sprinters. Yes we all know his brilliance with these types but it hasn’t stopped me ignoring them in the past and in future I will give his runners much closer scrutiny. I found his post race comments fascinating in that he believes these sprinters come into their own around aged 6, and he takes a slowly slowly approach with these types. This method clearly works for him and until they prove otherwise it is safe to assume that all of his sprinters around that age could be open to improvement – and previous form when younger may not account for much.
There was twitter ‘uproar’ when Goldream won as many couldn’t believe it. However he was a classic example of a horse that had yet to prove he couldn’t reach this level and as such should not have been written off. There were reasons, not least price, to take on the top of the market and I wasn’t surprised to see an ‘outsider’ win. (Cowell had backed him at 90s on Betfair a few weeks ago so he was happy!) That was his first run in a Group 1. Two starts previously he had his first start in a Group 3, and the ground did for him on his next start. Given the trainer’s approach this steady progression was not a surprise – with hindsight of course! He had won and gone close in some very valuable class 2 handicaps and any horse that does that clearly has group class potential.
Who can we take out of the race? If you watch it, to my eye at least, they didn’t go hell for leather up front and it paid to be handy. Indeed the first 3 home were front rank all the way and were in the right position. It will be interesting to see how this form pans out, especially in a more strongly run G1. That would appear to have done for Sole Power who as well as having an electric turn of foot does rely on those in front of him coming back. Given the slower pace (to the eye) he was maybe a bit too far back.
In that context the run of PEARL SECRET was decent. He was the only one to come from the back with a challenge and flew home. Without doubt if there was a stronger pace he would have gone closer I think. He also came from nearer the stand side than the front three and had to do a lot of his own work. Clearly he is not under the radar as he won the Temple Stakes, and I am not sure if he is a true G1 horse (but has yet to prove that he truly isnt) but a strong run 5f appears to be his thing and he ran like a horse in decent form. He is now a 6yo so is maybe coming to himself as well. One to keep an eye on as he may have a big prize in him if everything drops right – which for a hold up horse in a 5f sprint is never guaranteed.
The Royal Hunt Cup…
I could only bear to watch two replays of this as it was far too painful. I tell you what, there isn’t a worse feeling when you write a race preview (and spend over 2 hours looking at the race) to see it go so spectacularly wrong and be over by about half way. Ouch. Losing £120 on the race didn’t help my mood either. Yes it was probably the most competitive 8f handicap of the year but I enjoy these races and the challenge they pose – much more so than a group race of unexposed 3yo’s.
So hands up, I got that wrong. My problems started with my reading of the pace and in future on straight course races I need to think a bit smarter in these circumstances and maybe hedge my bets – ie don’t try and second guess jockeys so much and maybe cover both sides of the track. I did not anticipate that usual hold up performers Serius Prospect (although he has led on the odd occasion, not for previous 10 starts though) and Bronze Angel would lead the far side group – and push at a pace so hard that they were ‘miles’ clear of the near side group. That early pace arguable made the difference. I am still not sure if there was a track bias and if the far side was just quicker, no idea!
So, in future, if I can’t see any obvious pace on one side I will spend more time to stop and think – ‘ok, so the jockeys know there is no natural pace and that could do for all their chances, who may lead’. This was clearly not a race Serius Prospect was entered to win but he ran a cracker for most of the race and I will be keeping an eye on him moving forward. I wonder if they may try and make all in a 6f or 7f race in the near future.
However, I wont for one minute use it as an excuse for the awful runs of my three selections who never got into it or even put up a fight. Despite the disadvantage of the pace they still ran appallingly. Maybe the jockeys had a glance across and decided enough was enough, or maybe they just didn’t handle what was effectively Firm ground, with no Good to be seen. Either way I expected a much better run and there was one horse on the near side who proved you could run ok…
Balty Boys is probably the most obvious eye catcher of the week. With no real help and having to do his own work for the final few furlongs he came from the clouds and won ‘his race’ by quite a distance on the near side to finish an overall 4th. Of the horses that stayed near side it was some effort and he has to be tracked moving forwards. He is on a career high handicap mark but based on that run I don’t think it is insurmountable. It will be interesting to see where he heads next and his price etc, but one to keep an eye on.
Speculative Bid would have gone much closer but for running into all sorts of trouble, being bumped and barged in the process. He clearly stays 8f no problem and looks to still be improving – this handicap mark will not be a problem. With a clearer run next time he won’t be too far from the winners enclosure wherever he turns up. Caution as he does need luck in running!
The Wokingham was far from disastrous and I have Spencer to thank for riding out to the line and finishing 5th on Watchable. He looked like he was coming with a winning challenge on the far side before eyes were drawn to those rattling home down the middle of the track. I expected some rain that didn’t arrive and if truly Firm that did for Rene Mathis who has run well on Good to Firm but ideally likes a bit of juice in the ground. I don’t mind taking such chances on 33/1 shots and I will be backing him again before the season is out I suspect. Maybe he will turn up at Ayr or somewhere but he has performances in the book which suggest he has a big handicap in him, although he is another that needs everything to drop right – especially the pace of the race (sometimes looks as though 6f is too sharp, but then fails to see out his races over 7f!)
Dinkum Diamond was poor and fluffed the start I think. I expected him to be up near the front but he appeared to be near the back of the far side group. He is a good to firm/firm ground horse and he is another that will go in at some point again, although for me that was a disappointing no show.
Interception won this well. Typically in a race like this I tend to go for the more experienced and battle hardened horses, who I know have experience of similar race conditions. You never know how a race like this will affect a more unexposed horse, whatever their age. However, this winner demonstrated just how quickly horses can improve, this win being the 3rd run after winning a 6 runner, class 4 handicap at Lingfield! She had run well in a couple of listed races on her last two starts and was arguably unlucky on her previous start, coming from further back than the winner and finishing some way ahead of 3rd. Clearly she was well handicapped. So in future, I will be less dismissive of the more unexposed horses in races such as this. It is a slight change in mindset and for each race asking yourself which of the unexposed bunch looks most dangerous/is worthy of consideration – which isn’t something I have ever done consistently. I wouldn’t have backed that winner on this occasion but it may help identify a few more likely contenders in races moving forward. Clearly at times my aversion to backing less experienced horses in such races is miss-placed and if the price is right etc I should be less dogmatic.
After all, most races are actually won by horses doing something different for the first time – I forget where I read that, or how true it is – but i believe that is also the approach of Mr Pricewise as well. In as sense I could be accused of handicapping myself in some of these big races by being too quick to dismiss the ‘trying something new’ bunch. Maybe it is about balance and given I normally back 2 horses in such races having a mix of profiles on my side – or being more open to having a mix in any case.
I didnt have a bet in the race but I thought that Fire Fighting ran a screamer in 3rd. He was caught wide, about 4 wide, until they straightened up and also looked a tad lit up with no cover either. In that sense for over the first half of the race, and around every bend, he was losing quite a bit of ground. He has arguably been slightly unlucky on his last two runs and while a more obvious eye catcher I would think that this mark is not beyond him. I wouldn’t want to be taking him on over 10f on his next few starts given his form.
Those trainer stats I highlighted for certain races didnt do too badly. Indeed in the Ascot Stakes I highlighted AJ Martin and Mullins who provided the 8/1 winner and 33/1 3rd. I also highlighted a Michael Bell runner in a race I forget who ran well at 8/1. And in the handicap on Friday I highlighted H Morrison’s record in the race (2/3) – Alas I didn’t back his Arab Dawn who won well at 8/1>6/1. But, when form is hard to fathom, backing trainers with decent race records clearly isn’t a bad approach and maybe I will put a bit more effort into this next time.
I was hoping to highlight an interesting stat or horse to keep an eye on/back today but I can’t really find anything I felt able to back with confidence. There is plenty of C5/6 dross around.
One stat that caught my eye (thanks Geegeez Gold) was that Des Donovan and David Probert are 3/5, 5 places in the last 30 days in handicaps and team up with LTO winner Weardiditallgowrong in the 9.00 Leicester. It is a 3yo handicap (not for me generally) with a few making handicap debuts and horses open to improvement, dropping in class etc. But, he at least knows how to win, stays further which will help up this stiff Leicester finish, and could double up. In what looks a poor race 4/1 may not be too bad, although this is a step up in class. The trainer/jockey stat interests me, the actual race/horse does not!
There are some good sprint handicaps Friday and Saturday that I will look to get stuck into, and if I fancy anything in the meantime it will be up here by 10am.
Have a great week,