24/08/23: Free Tips Friday: Sam Darby’s Race Preview (complete)

Sam Daryby’s Friday preview…

Paddy Won’t Be The Baddy For York Punters

I took last week off as there wasn’t a massive amount that appealed on either Friday or Saturday so the last free tip came two weeks ago. I went for Equiano Springs and unfortunately he boiled over pre race and tasted his first defeat over 6f at Newmarket on good or better ground in seven starts.

Ironically, the 3rd from his last course and distance win has come out and won since, further franking that form, and I’d be even more confident backing him next time on good or better ground at 6f at Newmarket despite that poor run a couple of weeks ago.

Much Better Racing This Week

It’s great to have the York Ebor Festival this week and it’s even better that they are racing on fast ground. York and fast ground is often one of the better punting combinations, even if the handicaps at this meeting are generally extremely difficult to solve.

I have a few nice options to look at this Friday. Away from York I think Beraz will go well at Hamilton and in the opener on the Knavesmire I can see my old mate Paradias outrunning his odds. I want to make a case for one at a bigger price though , even if he’s a bit riskier than that pair.

So the race in question is the 5.15pm at York on Friday, which is a mile heritage handicap for 3yos only. The race often attracts a bigger field than this and there are only 12 runners set to go to post, which is perhaps slightly disappointing. However it doesn’t seem to have stopped the bookies from offering some decent prices, or 4 places on each way bets, so it should be a good betting race.

Handicap Debutants Could Be Difficult To Beat

In races like this you often get several well fancied runners who are progressing from maiden/novice company into handicaps and they are usually difficult to figure out.

Roger Varian’s Enfjaar beat some highly rated horses on debut and followed up with a 6 length victory in a Chelmsford novice before running seemingly below par when 11th of 15 in the Jersey Stakes. He makes his handicap debut off 98 here and I’m still not convinced he’s run to that mark yet so I’m willing to take him on, for all he’s obviously well thought of and could still be well handicapped after just three starts. The absence since Royal Ascot suggests he had a problem that day and wasn’t at his best so we could see a better effort in this.

English Oak has a similarish profile and if I was tasked with giving him a handicap rating I’d probably go with 85. The handicapper thinks more of him having given him a mark of 90 and like Enfjaar, I’m willing to oppose off that mark for all he could be a good thing.

Modesty was 2.5 lengths behind English Oak last time out and makes his handicap debut here too. Off a mark of 87 I see no reason why he should finish ahead of English Oak.

Dear My Friend and Alzahir also make their handicap debuts, at much bigger prices, and I’m not massively convinced by the profiles of either.

No Reason Not To Look At More Exposed Runners At Bigger Prices

I’ve often gone with proven handicap form in this race rather than the sexier profiles and that means I’ve backed Master Richard, last year’s winner at 16/1, as well as Pogo who landed this in 2019 at 12/1 before going on to prove himself in better company. Looking back at all the winners in the past decade, only one of them wasn’t already proven in handicaps.

The one who I’m quite excited to back in this is Catch The Paddy. He’s already run plenty of good races here so he ticks the course form box nicely and his 2nd here over 7f on seasonal debut at the Dante Meeting, off this mark, was really good form.

He raced prominently that day but was outpaced a little a few furlongs out and he ended up finishing best of all in the final furlong into 2nd. The winner has run really well in some hot handicaps since, the 3rd has won twice since, the 4th ran well in a listed race next time and is now rated 11lbs higher, the 5th won by 4 lengths next time out and has since finished 2nd in a Group 2, the 6th finished 2nd and 3rd on his next two starts in good handicaps and the 7th was also 2nd next time out in a decent race.

Catch The Paddy shaped like he’d improve for a step up to a mile that day which is very much in line with his breeding. His sire was a sprinter but he has plenty of offspring that prove best over a mile and a half. The main signs of stamina are on the dam’s side though. The dam was unraced but she was bred to get at least 12f and Catch The Paddy’s only half sibling is a 12f winner. On breeding it’s easy to see Catch The Paddy being at home over at least 10f so there should be few question marks over him staying this mile here.

With his breeding in mind, and the way he ran on seasonal debut, it was a shock to see him dropped back to 6f next time out, again at York, in one of the hottest sprints usually run each season. Given the emphasis on speed it was no surprise to see him fail to get involved.

He went back up to 7f at Haydock on his most recent start and he once again failed to get involved but for different reasons. He was held up in last in a race where it paid to be up with the pace and although he made up a bit of ground in the final furlong, he again shaped like he’d be happier with a much stiffer test of stamina.

He’s also been given a wind op since which suggests all was not right with his breathing that day but even the bare form of that run wasn’t terrible given the 2nd and 4th have won since, the 3rd has been very unlucky on a couple of starts since and the 5th was runner up next time. A staying on 6th in that race was nothing to be ashamed of.

At the very least, he’s a value bet at almost three times the price of Bajan Bandit. Catch The Paddy was 3 lengths behind Bajan Bandit on his latest start and is now 9lbs better off so in theory he should roughly dead heat with that rival. His early position in that race and a subsequent wind op suggest he can improve past him too, plus he promises to be suited more by the step up in trip.

Best Of The Rest

Tafreej looks a solid contender in this and the ground probably went against him last time out. That form hasn’t proved overly strong though so whilst he’s respected, he’s not tempting me into a bet.

Silver Sword is another who would have found the ground plenty soft enough last time out and I think he has another pot in him this season. Dylan Cunha has seemingly only been targeting big pots with this horse and he seems reluctant to go up in the weights for winning a minor race. His optimum appears to be 10f and fast ground although he got away with a stiff mile in a much weaker race on his penultimate run at Pontefract. This easier mile may not play to his strengths but I really liked his Epsom run in June over 10f and I still think he’s well handicapped even if he’s 11lbs higher here.

Final Verdict

I’m no breeding expert but I’m very confident that CATCH THE PADDY will improve for this extra furlong and if in the same form as his seasonal debut I think he has to go close in this.

He’s proven on the ground and at the course, looks well handicapped on that piece of form and has very valid excuses for his two defeats since. I’d be slightly concerned they might not go much of a pace in this but he raced prominently first time out this season and a repeat of those tactics should see him to best effect. I just hope they don’t hold him up to ‘get the trip’.

The top price of 20/1 at the time of writing looks a huge overreaction to a poor run at 6f and an okay run in a slowly run 7f handicap and I’m more than happy to back him with the 16/1 that is available with the majority of bookies in this. A price of almost 10/3 to finish in the first 4 also seems very generous given his record here.

I like Silver Sword but if this is tactical it’s unlikely to play to his strengths so he’s probably third best behind Bajan Bandit, who does still need to prove himself at this trip but has plenty else going for him.

No massive surprise if one of the handicap debutants trumps them all but I’ve got preference for the proven handicap form in this.


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