The Future Feature - Newmarket on Saturday
We’re only a few days away from potentially the best weekend of the flat season and punters will be getting their ante-post hats on in order to squeeze out a bit of value at Longchamp and Newmarket. We will swerve the French action for now and concentrate on the action from ‘HQ’ which culminates in the fiendishly difficult Cambridgeshire handicap.
As with the farcical scenes at Ayr and Ascot the last couple of weekends, the draw is likely to have a massive say in the matter, but even five minutes before the race, it’s apparently impossible to second guess what the jockeys are going to do and anyway, at this early stage, we don’t even know who’s going to make it to the course, never mind where the pace is going to come from.
So let’s try and look for a value punt or two before the race from the 65 or so runners who have made it into the five day declarations. The general profile of a Cambridgeshire winner is a relatively lightly raced three or four year old with pretensions to being Group 2 or 3 class next year. The last seven winners all had winning form at a mixture of a mile and ten furlongs or had won over the advertised distance of nine furlongs. There’s no point hoping that a classy miler suddenly pulls out the extra stamina reserves to see of the rest, or crossing your fingers that a middle distance horse stepping back in trip can keep up with the pace. Versatile sorts is what we’re after.
The market leader is John Gosden’s Charm School, who caught the eye when encountering all sorts of trouble in a hot Newbury handicap last time out, the same Newbury handicap used by last year’s winner Tazeez as a springboard to success for the same trainer, but his price has collapsed since that run and the value is gone. He does seem an ideal type for this race, having won over eleven furlongs at Kempton last month, yet possessing enough pace to break his maiden over seven and run creditable in the Lincoln and Newbury Spring Cup. Given the breaks, it’s hard to see him not running a good race with conditions in his favour and a sneaky suspicion that we are yet to see the best of him, but as mentioned before, the fancy prices are long gone and he’s priced up about right.
The winner of that race, ALMIQDAAD, is very interesting and seems a bit juicier at 16/1. He was thought of as a Group horse last year and his smooth victory under Richard Hills went some way to validating connections lofty aspirations. In fact, it is damn near impossible to work out how it is the same price as Antinori, who ran in the same race, tracked the winner throughout and faded to finish a well beaten eighth and didn’t convince at all with his finishing kick. If he continues the upwards curve this weekend, and if Richard Hills can continue his fantastic run of form, he rates a live danger to all.
Bushman has been well talked up recently, yet he will surely need the heavens to open before he rewards such loyalty, while Royal Destination, who ran better than his finishing position suggests at Newbury, will have to improve to get the job done, but I wouldn’t rule that out. Tryst was all the rage at the weekend but his backers would have been hoping to see more from him at Ascot, while nobody could possibly rule Nanton out of the reckoning after taking his form to another level over the summer but how many horses place in an Ebor and then go on to win the Cambridgweshire? It would be some story, that’s for sure.
Sirvino and Wannabe King are both very interesting on their highly productive summer sprees. The former won the ‘John Smiths’ at York in grand style, under a fantastic ride from Neil Brown, and the way he stretched away up the straight from Listed / Group 3 class animal Kindgom of Fife in second suggests he 9lb rise he was hit with might not be enough to stop him next time. Wannabe King gave a similar impression at Ripon when running away with a hotly contested handicap in grand style and his stamina was confirmed the time before at Epsom with a very smooth victory. His trainer, David Lanigan, has enjoyed a wonderful season and he could be one to watch out for with similarly progressive handicappers in the future. Wannabe King was also hit by the handicapper for that win but he seems to be getting better with every single run and the ground will be perfect for him.
If I was going to take an ante-post view at this stage with no draw, ground or final decs to go on, it would be the aforementioned ALMIQDAAD coupled with Luca Cumani’s SWOP. The latter horse seems to have been aimed for this race with two quiet runs since his return from Dubai, and Luca Cumani has a made a habit of giving horses two prep runs before a big race target. Swop was favourite for the race last year and ran well into third, but being a year older and a year stronger, and with an eye-catching prep run at Doncaster behind him, he must be respected. Those looking for a much bigger price could do worse than look at ALEZAYEB, who also ran well in the Doncaster handicap won by Manassas, has course form, stays even further, finished second to top class handicapper Roaring Forte at York and comes from the in-form Michael Jarvis stable, but his odds of 25/1, and the fact that he is in the same ownership as Almiqdaad would suggest that it’s probably best to keep the powder dry until the day to see if he makes it to the course. If he does, he will also run a massive race.
Good luck to anyone taking a view at this early stage but, whatever happens, one thing that is guaranteed is a weekend of monumental action covered live in the William Hill Radio studio.