We kick off todays live racing from one of Yorkshires premier race courses with a very open handicap over a mile and two furlongs.
With nearly twenty set to enter the stalls it’s a bit of a mind field but there’s no better place to start the analysis than at the head of the betting market.
Current favourite at around the 3/1 mark is the unbeaten and lightly raced Mahsoob. The John Gosden trained four year old has done nothing wrong in its two starts and looked good when winning a seventeen runner handicap on its seasonal reappearance. The horse is open to tonnes of improvement and is bound to come on for that run. Considering its unbeaten record and hailing from top connections it isn’t difficult to see why it is the favourite but with so many runners here and out of a less than favourable stall in stall eighteen I just couldn’t go with a horse that isn’t at least an each way price.
Top weight Tres Coronas did well to finish second at Chester last time out and may improve for that, with a course and distance win to its name it should handle conditions but is open to likely improvers considering it is lumbered with the biggest burden weight wise.
A horse that didn’t finish too far behind the favourite in its last race and is similarly lightly raced is Andrew Balding’s Field Of Fame. The horse wasn’t miles behind that day and is weighted much better here. The horse gets into the race of bottom weight and is open to just as much improvement. The Balding yard are doing relatively well at the moment without being in red hot form and this horse would definitely have a chance but again I feel is a tad too short a price.
The first of what will be three selections in this race will have its jockey decked out in the royal blue of Godolphin. First Flight is young at the age of four but has more race experience than the younger horses that head the market. The horse is hard to time right with great runs being followed up by disappointing efforts but it has had experience of York before and has won over the ten furlong trip as well. There’s a few question marks that hang over its head but at nearly a double figured price is worth an each way punt.
Of the remaining runners I’m opting for two course winners at big prices the first of which is trained locally at the stable of Richard Fahey. I personally tipped Spirit Of The Law in its last race when finishing a disappointing last. Despite that however it travelled well for most of the race and probably found the trip a tad too short and ground a bit too firm so it has its excuses. Looking through the horses last three trips to York its form reads first, second and second on good or soft ground. The good ground will be a plus and a return to a course it relishes should see this runner do far better than its 25/1 price suggests.
My third and final selection runs for a trainer that is known for his prowess over the jumps as opposed to the flat as Jonjo O’Neill saddles Edmaaj. The seven year old has had a disappointing try over hurdles and as such returns to the flat, to a course no less where it has been successful before. It may have not raced on the flat since 2012 but will still be fit for its National Hunt exploits and has won three of its last five starts on the level. A lot is taken on trust with this runner but with a positive draw in stall two and the booking of former champion jockey Jamie Spencer the horse has a lively chance of sneaking a place when others a fading.
First Flight (E/W)
Spirit Of The Law (E/W)
We move from one big runner handicap to another as we take on a six furlong sprint. If I thought the first race took some working out this one is arguably one of the biggest flat head scratchers I have ever come across and if truth be told I could quite happily back twelve of these runners and be happy doing so. What I’m left doing is trying to narrow this mammoth short list down to a sizeable amount and it is proving easier said than done.
As with the first race I have to start with the favourite. The horse that heads the betting is Mass Rally, a horse that had a disappointing year last season but now sits at a handicap mark it has won before. It has won over course and distance on similar ground and should improve for its previous spin. The horse is one I quite like but I fear and somewhat pray that age will be too much of a factor as it enters its eighth year.
Another runner that has only missed the cut by the skin of its teeth is Algar Lad. Todays jockey has a good record on the five year old and has run well in defeat on both of its seasonal starts. The horse clearly benefited for the step up to six furlongs and in all honesty I’d be disappointed if this horse didn’t finish in the top half of the field. I have no real concerns about the horse other than wether it is good enough to win a race of this level and although it hasn’t made my cut here is one I couldn’t wholeheartedly put people off backing.
As with the first race I am unfortunately plumping for three selections. I was hoping to only give two but I just couldn’t split the trio and I know good old sods law would strike if I were to leave one on the sidelines.
Also, as with the earlier contest, I’m siding with a Godolphin runner. Kickboxer was bought for a hefty sum of money and it wasn’t purchased with the sole purpose of just making up the numbers in handicaps like this. The horse has plenty of scope left at a relatively young age and the four year old already has two third placed finishes in big runner handicaps at York. The horse may need the run but there’s no doubt the horse has a whole heap of potential and if it has improved since its three year old days could absolutely take a field like this apart.
I find myself repeating myself once more as I’m also going to opt for a Jamie Spencer ridden horse in the second race as well as the first. He teams up with his old trainer Kevin Ryan who is renowned for his ability to train decent sprinters. Bogart has a course and distance win under its belt. The six year old now sits three pounds lower than its last winning mark and put a string of poor performances behind it when finishing third last time. It’s fair to say that this runner comes with a great deal of inconsistency but is another that, if it puts its best foot forward, could do well.
The final horse of the three is a horse that seems to promise a lot in defeat. Fast Shot comes from a stable in red hot form and showed enough to suggest it may do well this year when finishing third on its seasonal debut. The horse only lies two pounds above its last winning mark and has the assistance of the jockeys seven pound claim. It’s safe to say the horse isn’t the classiest of runners lining up here but may surprise a few if putting it all together.
Fast Shot (E/W)
We leave the handicaps behind and head into group company but unlike most group races this one has a decent sized field as well. I am bitterly disappointed that the weather hasn’t given us the shower we were expecting as the ground seems to have dried up and in turn is likely to have scuppered the chances of my long time selection Aetna. The five year old is known for its preference for soft ground and I would certainly be more confident if their was cut under foot but it may surprise some to note that of its five runs on good ground it has one win, a second and a third placed finish to its name. Clearly this is a horse that needs to step up on its previous form but it promised so much in Ireland last time out I have to stick with my initial instinct and put the horse as one of my fancies.
Looking through the field further and it would be hard to argue against the runners that sit joint favourite in Muthmir and Naadirr. Both are very worth of their positive slots in the betting and both are the most likely in terms of winners. I would probably be opting for one of the two if the field was much smaller but as with the other earlier races a field of this size has to produce a bit of value and I think I may have found it with the horse languishing at the bottom of the fifteen runner list.
Mattmu has had a fantastic campaign as a two year old winning a group two race on its final start. The horse acts on any ground and has never finished out of the first three in all nine of its starts. It finished a very close second to wonder sprinter Limato which reads as fantastic form and I could argue the horse has better form than the majority of these runners. The big question is wether or not the horse can compete with the older horses and if it has trained on over the winter. I would consider the horse being entered into a race like this on its seasonal reappearance as a very good sign and with some bookmakers going 18/1 I would think this is criminal. A course and distance win also aids this ones chances and I would go as far as to say is my best bet of the day.
Finally we end with a smaller field and I’m afraid I’m going to be mightily boring and side with the favourite. John Gosden’s Star Of Seville has proven it has progressed nicely into a three year old as she won her last race well enough and is likely to improve for the outing.
It is true that the Ballydoyle yard have to be feared but we saw in recent weeks that you just cannot see wether or not their horses are ready to win at this stage of the season. Together Forever clearly has a chance and shouldn’t be discounted readily but I feel is a horse that is likely to improve once it has made its return to the track and with a four pound swing in favour of the favourite is overlooked for this Oaks trial.
The one horse I actually fear the most is the unbeaten Pandora. Charles Hills does relatively well at York and as with the favourite has already dusted off the cobwebs for its one and only run this year. The horse is nicely bred out of Galileo and may be the one to split the two fancied runners. A lot would be taken on trust with this runner and as such it just has to be the favourite for me.
Star Of Seville (WIN)
by Rory Paddock