We open Saturday’s proceedings with a cavalry charge of twenty two runners set to go to post. When I was analysing the race earlier in the week I pinpointed a trio of runners on my shortlist in the hope that one or two would be withdrawn, however all three remain and as such I can’t ignore any of them. Although I’m not one for usually tipping so many horses in one race I just can’t find a good enough reason to give one the chop.
All of the selections have won here at Doncaster before and all three have gone well on soft ground so none of them will be put off by today’s conditions.
Captain Colby claimed victory in this race last year and although he’s had a less than encouraging season so far his lower weight and return to a track he’s never finished worse than second at is a big plus.
Another course and distance winner Justanotherbottle holds just as impressive a record here at Doncaster with one victory from just the one race. That win came on softer ground so, as with Captain Colby, should have conditions to hopefully see another bold bid.
The third selection of the trio may be a little bit of a case of heart ruling the head but Move In Time last won a race when claiming victory in a Group 3 over in France. Since that day his form has been muddling to say the least but as he continues to plummet in weight and level of opposition the faith remains that if he were to return to anything like his best form he’d obliterate this field. It’s true that age isn’t on his side but with soft ground likely a chance is taken on him returning to something like his best.
The ever consistent A Momentofmadness and Merlin are rivals that demand a keen eye and have the capabilities to threaten our selections.
CAPTAIN COLBY (E/W)
MOVE IN TIME (E/W)
The first of three races from Chester on ITV where we start with a race over the minimum trip. Chester’s unique course means that a high draw can easily put pay to your chances, especially over the smaller distances which helps us eliminate a few of these quite easily.
Viscount Loftus looks to have a solid chance especially after two wins from just three starts. Jockey Franny Norton has a great record here at Chester and the horse he rides has a great opportunity to rack up his third win. The big question however is wether or not he’ll handle the soft conditions and that’s a big enough doubt to put me off backing him.
Falabelle and at a bigger price Chatburn have solid chances and may be able to sneak a place but once again they don’t seem to be overly keen on today’s soft ground.
One horse that doesn’t mind the under foot conditions is the Tom Dascombe trained Porchy Party who may find further improvement now with the addition of blinkers. Hailing from a yard who do well here at Chester he’s taken to be in the mix at a decent price.
PORCHY PARTY (E/W)
Although it may be cruel to the six other competitors I can only see this race as a two runner affair. Home Of The Brave and Nathra look the most likely winners and it’s hard to make a case for any of their opposition.
Both of the two main protagonists have great levels of form so I’ve used the question “Which one acts best on softer ground?” as a means to picking our idea of the winner.
With her first two races, both of which were winning runs, coming on soft ground Nathra seems to be more than capable of handling wetter conditions. As we saw yesterday with our winning NAP Heartache, fillies are more than capable of beating their male opposition and we hope for more of the same here with John Gosden’s four year old.
NATHRA (WIN) – NAP
Duretto has put in a handful of decent efforts here at Chester without winning and although it’d take a brave man to say he won’t be there or thereabouts he’s not my idea of the winner. Despite an encouraging third in a Group 3 last time out I hope he’s set for a minor role here.
Across The Stars is a Group 2 winner who also contested an Epsom Derby. He’s been super disappointing this season but I’m hoping that this less competitive race should be much easier for him and Sir Michael Stoutes prowess with older horses should give him a great chance. A return to anything like his best form should be enough to dominate a race like this.
ACROSS THE STARS (WIN)
What a tricky looking race we have to contend with in this penultimate contest from Doncaster as two unbeaten runners in Dream Today and Mythical Magic go head to head with other very competitive and promising youngsters.
With such little form to hand it’s hard to be overly confident with any horse in a race like this so value is the key to having a bet. The two aforementioned runners are well worthy of their place as main protagonists and I couldn’t put punters off backing either of them however if eight runners line up on the day then we get another place for each way punters and I hope I’ve located a runner that could finish in the top three.
The Ballydoyle yard send three horse into this contest and although you’d tend to say whatever Ryan Moore rides is the one with the best chance it wouldn’t be a new thing to see their second or third string runners do well.
I like the look of Seahenge who looked very impressive when winning its first race before disappointing at Goodwood afterwards. A fifth in a Group 2 contest still doesn’t look like bad form and I can’t ignore the generous 14/1 price currently on offer and looks worth an each way punt in a very complex race.
Tadaawol looks a massive price (currently 14/1) for a horse who relishes softer ground and has Chester maestro Franny Norton in the saddle. His draw isn’t too bad and although he’ll need to step up on his recent efforts trainer Roger Fell is more than capable of getting a horse ready for a big run.
The likes of Kenstone and Dan Troop have obvious chances and deserve the upmost respect but it’s actually Heir To A Throne that I fear the most who, with a course and distance victory to his name, could out run his large price.
The big race of the day is the third and final British classic as one of the oldest horse races in the world, the St Leger makes its annual renewal.
I must confess that the race is often seen (even by myself) as an after thought that tends to lack any great strength in depth but I have to eat my words this year as it looks to be one of the most competitive runnings I’ve seen in a long time.
There may only be eleven runners in the race but the first five in the betting are priced with single figure odds which shows just how close the race is likely to be. All that being said however I’m actually opting for a horse outside of the first five in the betting.
If a gun was pointed to my head and I had to pick one of the more fancied runners I couldn’t look past Defoe who is unbeaten in four runs this year and in all honesty if any punters can get 6/1 or bigger about the Roger Varian trained runner then I’d urge everyone to back it each way. That being said I feel the likelihood of anyone getting a price that big is slim to none.
So why have I opted for a lesser fancied runner I hear you ask? In a word, consistency. I know it may seem hypocritical when you see that Defoe, Stradivarius and Crystal Ocean haven’t finished outside of the top three all year but bar one run neither has Venice Beach. A win over Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles and a second behind Cracksman looks like very good form. A step up in distance should also benefit his chances as should soft going. Whilst the other more fancied runners will take the pre-race limelight this forgotten runner could be the surprise package to take the post-race limelight instead.
VENICE BEACH (E/W)