Free Tips Friday: Sam Darby’s Race Preview

Sam’s Friday preview

Potential Pace Bias The Key Factor In York Handicap

It was a shame that Orbaan was re routed to the 7f handicap on Saturday last week rather than the 1m Classified Stakes I previewed as Friday’s race looked far more winnable for that horse and so it proved as he didn’t run especially well on Saturday.

That withdrawal left me with just one of my two selections and Florida put in a forgettable performance. I liked his last run (the win at York) but I didn’t like his overall profile and after the effort he put in on Friday he was off my tracker almost instantly. He’ll probably pop up again soon but he doesn’t look particularly reliable.

Excellent Racing For This Time Of Year

It hasn’t been easy in recent weeks to find good Friday betting races but there are plenty of nice handicaps this week, on both Friday and Saturday. No excuses for not finding a winner I suppose!

I think the race that is going to be easiest to predict is the 3.50pm at York, a one mile, 13 runner, class 2 handicap. I do like a York handicap, largely because the course’s biases tend to be fairly predictable, and relatively underestimated in the market.

At the time of writing, the York ground is good, good to soft in places but they are due heavy rain overnight with around 17mm forecast. That should be enough to make it soft at best, with the potential of heavy appearing in the description.

Haggas Seems To Have A Strong Hand

William Haggas saddled last year’s winner of this, Substantial, and he has two of the market leaders this year in the form of Lattam and Millebosc, both of whom should love softening conditions.

This seems to be a last throw of the dice at getting a penalty for Lattam to get him into the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot on Champions’ Day, with things not going his way at Goodwood twice since his win at Newcastle in June. He’s only 1lb higher than that victory where he beat Spirit Catcher (now rated 6lbs higher) by a nose despite not getting the run of the race so there should be plenty of hope that he’s still feasibly handicapped.

With ground to suit, and a good draw, he was sent off favourite for the Golden Mile at Glorious Goodwood but he got no run through on the inside and a line can be put through that run, although he didn’t pick up amazingly well when he did get a bit of daylight. He returned to Goodwood last time out in a smaller field in a bid to make amends but he could only manage 3rd, beaten a length and beaten by Hafeet Alain who reopposes here.

It’s possible that that Lattam isn’t 100% suited to Goodwood and may improve back on a more conventional track but there are definitely mixed messages to his runs this season and he wouldn’t be one to take a fairly short price on, especially at a course like York where his hold up tactics can be difficult to pull off.

Millebosc has failed to live up to his reputation a few times this season but ran much better last time out when a narrow 2nd a couple of weeks ago in a race I previewed (the one where I tipped Safe Voyage). You may remember last week that I mentioned that it was a huge advantage to be on the pace in that race so Millebosc may be slightly flattered by that result and he wouldn’t necessarily be one to back that up off a 4lb higher mark, for all he has some excellent older form.

Pace Options Always Of Interest At This Trip At York

Despite a nice long straight here at York you don’t always find the front runners coming back to the field, even over this mile trip. It could be a disputed pace between Millebosc and Autumn Festival although Autumn Festival seems better at 7f so might need restraining a little more than he is over the furlong shorter trip.

Autumn Festival had come down 9lbs this season, having been largely out of form, but he bounced back with an easy win at Beverley on his penultimate start. He ran well when 2nd last time out under a penalty (only beaten a short head) and through a slight quirk in the handicapping system he’s running off a 2lb lower mark here, before his new mark (5lbs higher) kicks in following that run. That leaves him very much in form and definitely well handicapped on ground that suits with a racing style that suits here too but he’s been beaten on his last six runs at this trip and that’s the major doubt for him.

Most of the rest of the field like to be held up with the exception of Redarna and Hafeet Alain. The former is a horse I’ve followed over the past few years and I was disappointed with his run at his beloved Ayr last time and I’m not expecting much from him here.

Hafeet Alain makes far more appeal. He’s not necessarily brilliantly handicapped, in fact he’s 7lbs higher than his last win (9lbs if you include the fact the jockey only claims 3lbs now) and that win came at Newmarket where he has a particularly strong record.

However there are plenty of positives in that he beat the favourite for this last time out and is handicapped to confirm that form on these terms. The winner of that race ran a good 5th in the big handicap at Ascot last week and Hafeet Alain should be well placed here in conditions he’ll handle just fine.

He’s got a lovely draw in stall 1 and whilst it doesn’t look like he’s amazing well handicapped, he was quite unlucky not to win at Haydock a few starts ago in a similar race off this mark so he certainly has it in him to land something like this, especially if given a boost from a pace bias.

Several Course Regulars Returning

Northern Express loves it here and he’s been given a poor ride or two here this season but the wider draw is slightly concerning (draw bias seems stronger on soft ground) and whilst he won on soft ground earlier this season, I’ve always thought him better on decent ground so I’d be slightly against him this time around. He’s now 10lbs higher than that soft ground win after all.

La Trinidad has had 33 career runs and 17 of those have come here. He’s looked in the grip of the handicapper since an easy win in June and it’s worth noting that all his wins have come in June and July, although he has held his form well this season into the Autumn months. He’s placed in two decent races on his last two starts but has gone up another couple of pounds for those runs and he doesn’t especially appeal as a win bet, although it’s not difficult to envisage him running fairly well.

Orbaan has won over course and distance off a 12lbs higher mark and is undoubtedly handicapped to strike, with a mile and some cut in the ground ideal for him. I’m quite frustrated that he’s been entered for this as I think he’s better around Goodwood where he has an entry on Sunday and I was hoping he’d go for that. This course doesn’t especially play into the hands of horses like Orbaan who like to be held up but he has a pretty good record here and ran well over the course’s 7f a couple of starts back. That was in first time cheekpieces and he’s now tried in a first time visor, which is a risk for punters to consider but also a potential positive considering the cheekpieces worked okay. There are enough negatives to put me off although I may have to have a small saver for my own sanity as I’d been considering a biggish bet if he was to run on Sunday.

Eilean Dubh is yet another who often frequents these races, but he’s another who is probably in the grips of the handicapper whilst also being drawn wide. Meanwhile Cryuff Turn has won a couple of these races in recent seasons but he’s largely been out of form this season and is happier on firmer ground so I’m happy to rule him out.

Ground Against Others

I unsuccessfully tipped up Star Of Orion last time out in ideal conditions so I’m not keen to back him over a furlong too far, on ground too soft here.

Zozimus is one I thought might have a chance at a big price in the Cambridgeshire so in theory he should be of interest in calmer waters here but he was withdrawn on soft ground a couple of starts ago and his best form is on fast ground. A well run mile race at Newcastle in the coming months should see him return to the winners’ enclosure. 

Pisanello has had a good season and he’ll be fine on the ground but his form seems to have tailed off in recent runs.

Final Verdict

There are probably six or seven in this who have a chance of winning, even if very few of them have everything in their favour. Lattam and HAFEET ALAIN are closely matched on Goodwood form and although the former is open to more improvement, it’s the latter who appeals more. Ed Walker’s runner is a bigger price and should enjoy the run of the race so at the very least appeals strongly as a runner who can provide a place return, with a decent chance of a win return thrown in for good measure. The generally available 13/2 with 4 places at the time of writing looks solid. I do like course form in these races and Hafeet Alain won easily (over 7f) on his only previous run here (on soft ground too) which is an added bonus.

Autumn Festival is one of the better handicapped runners in the race, especially from those who are in form, and he appeals as likely to run well for 95% of the race but he could be found wanting in the final 100 yards or so. It would be no surprise to see him hold on for a place though.

Of the remainder, Orbaan is capable of popping up whilst La Trinidad will probably be threatening the places.

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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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