Kicking off tonights action over the minimum trip where eight are scheduled to go to post.
The likely favourite looks set to be Split The Atom, a four year old that likes to go from the front and out speed its rivals. With this sort of tactic the horse wins or loses by very narrow margins and is very consisted with top two finishes in its last five starts. With the way the JP Shanahan runs I’m surprised to see this will be the first time it’s raced over fiver furlongs and it looks to certainly help boost its chances but I have a feeling with an extra bit of weight on its back it may set the race up for something to run on late.
An interesting runner is the top weight Geological, another four year old who put in a solid enough performance over course and distance last time out and place money may be on the cards once again.
Bottom weight Kiss The Stars won well here on its last outing and takes a step up in class today, with its level of inconsistency I just feel it’s not the sort to follow up, especially drawn way out in stall seven.
The horse I’m siding with in the first is the old-timer Almadaa. A consistent horse on its day who, after a more encouraging race last time out, returns to its previous winning mark of 72. Connor King is a very promising jockey who’s ridden the horse to victory numerous times before. Trainer David Marnane may not be on the boil he could have his yard bouncing back to form with a decent run from this sprint veteran.
The second race on the card sees us plump for another each way selection but this time in a field of fourteen. This ultra competitive contest requires a bit of value hunting and I hope I’ve found it in the form of Cappadocia. The course and distance winning six year old hasn’t run over course and distance once since winning here in April last year. It’s also interesting to note that the horse has been piloted by five different jockeys since its last success in which todays rider Wayne Lordan now gets back onboard. Lordan has a good record onboard the Seamus Fahey trained runner with a win and two placed efforts from five starts. Drawn in stall three is undoubtedly going to help and with quotes as big as 33/1 at the moment it is definitely worth an each-way play.
Of its rivals I feel Missile Command has a great chance back over six furlongs but feel stall 14 is going to be highly unfavourable.
The ultra consistent National Service has to be respected as does Times In Anatefka who put in a solid run last time out.
A three year old maiden is the next puzzle left for us to decipher and it looks another tricky contest to figure out.
In theory the winner should come from the three market leaders in the form of Birthplace, Chewy Round Town and Love In The Sun however two of these runners are given unkind draws in stalls nine and eleven and with that in mind, in a race with little to no form clues to go off, I just couldn’t back them at a short price. Of the three I feel Chewy Round Town probably has the best chance of going one better from its second placed finish last time out but a race of this nature see’s me go once again for a double figure priced runner.
Trainer Sheila Lavery had a staggering all-weather strike rate of 36% in 2015 and had 14 top three finishes from 39 three year old runners she had last year. She sends the American bred Ultra Thef on to the course for its first run and although a lot is taken on trust in a race of this nature I think it should have a lively chance of running into the places from stall one.
Ultra Thef (E/W)
As with the previous race we have another three year old maiden ahead of us where clear favourite The Mouse Doctor looks to improve on its third placed finish at this venue last time. The horse didn’t make an impression on the winner that day and to me it seemed like it’d improve for a step up in trip. It’s therefore interesting to note that the horse is sent over a furlong shorter today. Now clearly the trainer will know more than I do about the horses credentials and I may be proven wrong but at a best price of around 5/4 it looks opposable.
I’d be much more concerned about the second favourite Zilbiyr, a horse owned by big connections and trained by one of Irelands top trainers Mark Halford. There’s no question about the horses class when it comes to breeding and after a respectable enough run in a Curragh maiden it could go closer today but unfortunately it’s cursed with a dreaded outside draw which, although it can be overcome, doesn’t help its chances in a shorter distance race.
Number one is where my pin falls here as trainer Johnny Murtagh has his yard in blistering form with three winners from four starts in the last two weeks for his stable. Although we are only just into the new year Murtagh has had a 29% strike rate with his three year olds so far and a 40% strike rate on the all-weather. No doubt the yards form will dip at some point but whilst they seem to be on the crest of a wave it looks a good choice to be on their runner Full Court Press.
Full Court Press (E/W)
The last of a trio of consecutive three year old races sees us race over a mile where course winner Spruce Meadows heads the betting. A decent looking victory here two weeks ago shows the horse handles conditions and is on a good enough mark to go in once more but with horses coming here that represent some top Irish yards it’s certainly not going to be any easier than it was in its last race. The Gary Carroll ridden runner won by less than a length that day and has taken a rise in the weights. If the horse improves then no doubt it’ll be in the shake up but my pennies will go on one of its rivals tonight.
No doubt these three will be way down the pecking order in terms of three year olds that Aiden O’Brien will saddle in 2016 but he has a third of the field and they all deserve respect. It looks like Zig Zag is the more fancied of the three but despite seeing the number two in its form it’s somewhat misleading as the horse finished second in a three runner event. Of the three O’Brien saddles I actually think the threat comes in the form of the top weight Stone Mountain. A horse that runs relatively consistently and should give a good account of itself after a small rest.
A small mention has to go to Rateel who, despite being priced around 20/1, looks to have a relatively decent chance, or at least better than its price eludes to. The horse won over a mile at Chelmsford before changing hands and then being tried over inadequate trips on its last three starts it now returns to a mile off a fair mark and could definitely be a sleeper that is worth noting.
Although it was close between Rateel and my selection I have opten for Dashing Chief. Another horse that looks far too generously priced at around 12/1. The horse is obviously quirky after refusing to race last time but prior to that finished a decent second behind a Ballydoyle runner over course and distance which certainly isn’t anything to be rubbished. Wayne Lordan is booked for the ride and can hopefully coax this three year old not just into starting but to victory.
Dashing Chief (E/W)
After three, three year old races, that provided slim to no form to go off we now have a big runner handicap to get stuck into.
A personal favourite of mine is Shukhov who, if you’ve been following our selections, has provided us with a win for the team at PicksfromthePaddock.co.uk however now sitting at a sky high rating and in a much more competitive race this looks far too steep a task to overcome tonight.
Skerray Rules is another horse that has found itself in the winners enclosure a handful of times this winter and it wouldn’t surprise me if the four year old can progress further. A step up in trip from its usual one mile distance sees the Mark Halford runner take on a new task and it’s one I feel will suit however as with Shukhov this looks a more competitive affair and at 6/1 it’s price is probably a tad too short.
Top weight Enzani looks an interesting runner after being last seen on the flat over 440 days ago. It won its only all-weather start here and if it can recapture its previous form it may do well but just how fit the horse is will have to be called into a question and a watching brief is the best advice I could give.
The race looks so open with thirteen previous course winners entered and with how open it is I’m going to opt for two selections.
The first of which is eight year old Ned’s Indian who showed improved form when finishing third last time out. The horse is bound to strip fitter for that effort and with a return to its last winning course and distance it could go well.
My second pick is a horse that has been rated as high as 101 on official ratings before. Two lacklustre efforts this year doesn’t necessarily fill you with confidence but prior to that a second placed finish behind Udogo over course and distance show’s it does still retain a decent level of ability. Now racing off one of the lowest marks it has done in a good while Sharjah might be worth a shot.
Ned’s Indian (E/W)
The penultimate race sees the smallest field of the night but what looks set to perhaps be the classiest lineup of the evening.
Four of the six are course and distance winners and the selection comes from this four. Political Policy keeps pulling more out of the bag as the five year old has rocketed up the handicap from where it was at the beginning of the winter and although I’m positive this has been said plenty of times throughout the cold months it can’t win again can it? I genuinely think a mark of 98 may finally be enough to halt its progress and I’m hoping the proverbial bridesmaid Marise is there to pounce. A horse that has promised a lot but seems to always find one too good now enlists the assistance of top jockey Wayne Lordan who can hopefully eek out the required improvement. The lightly raced four year old is due a success and I hope tonight is the night it finally gets its head in front.
Marise (WIN) – NAP
We bring tonights action to a close with what looks another almightily tricky contest. The betting shows just how open it is with 7-1 bar the favourite.
The aforementioned favourite comes in the form of top weight Moving On Up who did well when finishing second in its last run. It did well that day but I really couldn’t be backing a favourite who has yet to taste success in nine previous starts. The horse should go close and if you can get an each-way price to nothing I wouldn’t wholeheartedly put you off but in a race like this it looks tailor made for a surprise to be sprung.
An outsiders chance could be given to a hatful of the runners and it’s hard to narrow down a field of this nature.
I feel Dermot Weld’s Sir Raston could improve on its fourth placed finish last time out but is another that still has its maiden tag.
Cristy’s Call should’ve probably won here in its last race but wether a step up in trip will suit I’m not overly convinced.
Gun Shoot ran a decent race at a big price last time out and could do well but as a reserve it needs to firstly get in the race and ideally it needs a decent draw to go from.
The one I’m hoping to end the night with a bang is Scenic Star. It’s interesting to see trainer Gavin Cromwell not just saddle one of the market leaders but also this runner. Although it isn’t such a telling factor over this longer trip a low draw is still helpful and the six year old has been given stall two. Fitness shouldn’t be a great concern after being campaigned over hurdles and returns back to the all-weather on the same mark as when finishing second over course and distance back in October. Tom Madden jumps back up top for the ride once again and Scenic Star looks the one to shout home in the lucky last.
Scenic Star (E/W)
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