29/09/23: Free Tips ‘Saturday’: Sam Darby’s Race Preview

Sam’s Saturday preview…

Saturday’s Safe Each Way Bet Can Be Found At Haydock

It seems next time out is the race to catch most of the selections at the minute. Recent selection Mattice won last week and then the tip from a fortnight ago, Baryshnikov, was a slightly unlucky 2nd this week at Pontefract at 20/1.

That bodes well for the next time out chances of Wadacre Gomez who was beaten a short head last Friday evening. I ended up not backing him as he was too short all things considered and that run will probably ensure he’s not a backable price next time either – he’ll be running off a much higher mark too.

On to this week, Friday’s racing didn’t make much appeal so I’m previewing a Saturday race instead.

Cambridgeshire Looks Too Difficult

I often love a bet on the Cambridgeshire but nothing appeals massively this time around. Greek Order looks the really progressive one but I’m confident he’ll be seen to best effect with cut in the ground. He might still be well enough handicapped to win this without being seen to best effect but I’d be happy enough to oppose him with an each way wager elsewhere.

It’s actually his stablemate, Merlin The Wizard, who I quite like. He’s bred to stay this far so I’m not especially worried about the extra trip and he’s well drawn right on the near side rail. The 8lb rise for his latest win looks a bit harsh though and that puts me off having a decent bet.

For this week’s preview I’ll be taking a look at a non televised race at Haydock. The 4.25pm looks a really good class 2 mile handicap and I’m slightly amazed it hasn’t made the cut for live broadcast, and annoyed as that would have ensured a slightly stronger market to bet into.

Younger Horses Have Dominated This Race

The last ten runnings of this race have seen six 3yos land the spoils with the other four renewals being won by a 4yo. That might imply that only six runners, just under half the field, can win this one.

The early favourite for this with William Hill (the only bookie to have priced up at the time of writing) is Enfjaar, a very lightly raced 3yo. Roger Varian’s colt hasn’t been seen since running an underwhelming race in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was sent off just 13/2 for that so must be well regarded but he had won both his races on his way there so he had a very sexy profile. Perhaps the ground was too fast for him that day as he’s been pulled out since on fast ground and his debut win came on good to soft. This could be heavy ground though and he’s not especially the sort of horse you’d want to risk on that, after missing over 3 months of action.

Royal Dubai is the next most fancied 3yo in the market but he too might find this soft enough, even if he’ll enjoy the drop back to a mile. He’s probably well enough treated but the ground is a concern.

The ground shouldn’t be an issue for Sparks Fly, who progressed from an opening mark of 60 this year to a current mark of 98. She’s won her last six handicap starts but she found a step up in trip in listed company last time out too much. She’s been freshened up since which seems wise and she might not be done at this level yet given how well a few of her handicap runs worked out. Crucially she’s won four from four on soft ground this season.

Arkendale ran well last time out but the drop back in trip may not be ideal, plus I’m never keen on first time headgear.

Racingbreaks Ryder completes the quintet of 3yos and he’s lost his way in recent starts, often far too keen for his own good. It’s probably the case that 7f is as far as he wants to go and he’s probably worth a try over sprint trips.

The only 4yo in the field is Bennetot, who could handle the ground based on his French form. David O’Meara gets plenty of horses like this and I don’t see many of them winning first time out for him.

So, if you are a fan of trends, the winner is probably one of the above.

Market Not Ruling Out Older Horses

The second favourite for this is 5yo Helm Rock, who comes into this looking to complete a hat trick. He’s won on soft before and he’s a course and distance winner but he was going nowhere this season until sent back to the all weather where he looks a much better horse now. I’m not banking on him translating this improvement back to turf and I think he’ll do very well to reach the places – I’m very much against him.

Empirestateofmind loves the mud but he’s generally been disappointing this season, not helped by the handicapper failing to show much sympathy. A first time visor might eek out some improvement but it’s just as likely to see him go backwards.

Maywake has seemingly found improvement out of nowhere recently, looking held off a mark of 80 before two easy wins have seen him fly up to 93. The horse he beat last time out by 4 lengths has won since so a 6lb rise might not be enough to stop him but all his wins have come over 7f so this extra furlong could be what stops him.

Outsiders Have Minor Claims

The three outsiders are Brunch, Millebosc and Boardman. I thought Brunch had minor claims last time out in a similar race yet he was beaten almost 10 lengths and I wouldn’t be keen to back him away from York at the minute. There is a mile handicap back there soon that he might go off a big price for. Millebosc has proved one of the disappointments of the season and front running tactics didn’t help him last time. He needs to bounce back.

Meanwhile Boardman likes it here, having won twice, but he’s still 1lb above his last winning mark and hasn’t won in the UK over further than an extended 7f. A slight drop in the weights and a return to 7f around Chester should see him return to the winners’ enclosure.

One More To Consider

I’ve touched on 12 of the 13 runners now, the one I’ve left until last is Safe Voyage. At the age of 10, he’s as old as the last three winners combined and he was foaled in the same year as 2016 winner Above N Beyond.

For these old boys it’s very easy to put forward a case for them on old form, they are always 10lbs+ below their peak marks. Form from beyond the current season is often irrelevant as they’ll usually be on the decline so I’m only going to reference those runs in terms of proving he’ll love conditions, rather than to show he’s well handicapped.

He’s won in 4 of his 7 course runs, placing in one of the races he didn’t win. He’s also at home at other flat, left handed courses. In total he’s had 17 runs in such circumstances, winning 9 times and placing 12 times. That record on soft or heavy reads 4 wins and 6 places from 8 starts. That all suggests he’s extremely likely to give his running.

In terms of his handicap mark, he finished last season on this mark (placed in the Balmoral Handicap) and although he hasn’t rated this high all season, he’s probably run to this rating on a couple of occasions, in fact the only two occasions he’s gone round a left handed bend.

The first of those was in the Thirsk Hunt Cup when he was a running on 3rd. The winner has since rated 11lbs higher, then runner up 8lbs higher, so it’s not inconceivable that Safe Voyage is still handicapped to win off a 3lb higher mark than he carried that day.

Last time out at Chester is the big hope though. He’s admittedly now 2 from 2 at that venue, so perhaps it suits even better than Haydock, but he ran an exceptional race off a 5lb lower mark. He stormed clear to win by 2.5 lengths in a visually impressive display but more impressive is how that form has worked out.

The runner up, Koy Koy, won quite comfortably next time out and was a little unlucky not to follow up off a 6lb higher mark last time. The 3rd was narrowly beaten next time out at Epsom, pulling clear of the 3rd, whilst the 4th home behind Safe Voyage in that Chester handicap was Master Zoffany and he won well next time out, back over the same course and distance.

A repeat of that form should be enough to ensure Safe Voyage goes close in this.

Final Verdict

Enfjaar could prove thrown in but there are enough doubts about him (ground, well being) to make him opposable. Sparks Fly could still have a bit of mileage left in her mark and she should cope with conditions. She could also get an uncontested lead so she looks a fair each way price at the early 10/1 on offer and she could be a worthwhile saver.

The selection has to be SAFE VOYAGE though in what are pretty much his ideal conditions. I’d have preferred a likely stronger pace for him but everything else looks in place for a big run and his proven effectiveness not only in heavy ground, but in Haydock’s heavy ground, is a massive plus. I’m keen to have a decent each way bet on him with most bookies offering 4 places. William Hill have gone an early 13/2 and I had hoped for bigger given there are lots of 3yos in this but it’s a more than fair price considering how impressive he was when winning last time out. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few bookies go bigger, especially if there is very early money for the favourite.


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Please note that these articles are written shortly after final declarations so any prices, whilst available at time of writing, are subject to plenty of fluctuation. There will hopefully always be value in the content and some of the shortlisted horses even if the main selection has shortened considerably. 


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