First off, I should apologise for the lack of updates since Tuesday. I was intending to back a couple of selections but for a few different reasons (usually missing the price overnight), betting opportunities have been a bit thin on the ground. The last selection came in the form of Laudation, who although drifting out to 30.0 on Betfair, finished second. He just ran into one that was much better handicapped but it was serious frustrating, especially as I back win-only and I backed him again before the off at much bigger odds on the exchanges. The race panned out perfectly being run at a breakneck gallop and it was a real missed opportunity, but not one we could do too much about, as the winner had plenty in hand on the day. Lots of racing for Saturday and I’ve got involved with a fair few races, some selections coming at big prices while others shorter. Good luck if you decide to follow and best of luck for any other bets you may have today.
Not much depth to this maiden and Fantasy Justifier showed enough on debut to look like a decent sprinter and unless a debutante has plenty of ability, I’ll be very surprised to see the Ronald Harris trained runner out of the first two. He was green as grass on debut at Bath but caught my eye with a strong mid-race move that displayed that he had plenty of speed and knew his job. His effort petered out at the one-pace towards the end of the race but there was enough there to suggest he has plenty of ability and with a sprint pedigree like the one he possesses (related to horses such as Tax Free), it would be very disappointing to not see him come on significantly for the outing. To be honest, I was hoping they’d pitch him in a better race than this as I think he’s got the potential to be quite good but in a race such as this, he’s definitely still worth a bet. Of his five rivals, Sartori and Urban Dreamer have run to a fair level of form, the former finishing ahead of our selection on debut but I do think that ours has more scope to improve and that isn’t factored into the price. Red Oasis was smashed up in the market before being withdrawn and with Ryan Moore booked he’s respected. Cool Bahamian has a decent pedigree too but will likely come on for the run, whilst Movie Magic is best watched from this stable in juvenile events. Fantasy Justifier should be favourite for me and when writing this originally last night, I expected prices more like 5/2, so to see prices on the board such as what they are now, he’s worthy of some strong support.
Smarty Socks loves it round Ascot over the 7f trip and although his reappearance effort wasn’t great on paper, he was given a funny ride and I’m willing to give him a chance in this big handicap, a sort of race that he’s had plenty of experience in and off this sort of handicap mark, he should be more than capable of playing a big part in. He is a 9yo now which begs the question whether he is just in decline but he showed enough form last season to suggest the spark was still there, even though he only managed one victory, in a Conditions event at York. He started 2012 off a handicap rating of 102 and that had fallen to one of 94 by the end of the campaign but efforts such as this penultimate run of 2012 at Newmarket suggests that the vast majority of the ability remained and that a big handicap was still a possibility.
If Smarty Socks was to win a big handicap, it almost certainly would be either over this C&D or at York. He acts particularly well here at Ascot, winning off a rating of 95 back in 2011 and he always shapes well at this track, just as long as the ground is decent. A deluge of rain would put me off significantly here and I think they’ll pull him out if it rains significantly anyway (he’s entered in a race at Doncaster on Monday). His Haydock reappearance will have to be forgiven but he was held-up well off the pace, not asked for his effort until the race was gone and was sent very wide to make his challenge. It wasn’t the greatest of rides and he’s been dropped 2lbs in the meantime. The talented David Bergin takes off 5lbs now and effectively running off a mark of 86, over his ideal C&D and in a race that plays to his strengths. I think this could be Smarty Socks last real chance to pick up a big prize, but one is capable of doing and at huge prices, he’s worthy of interest.
Woody Bay reappeared this season with a promising effort in a fair 3yo handicap and is taken to score in a similar sort of race now, with that race under his belt. The James Given trained gelding is yet to win from his six starts but has showed ability on plenty of occasions, finishing second twice last season (nothing particularly wrong with his attitude in either, just running into one too good) and although he ended last season on a bit of a sour note, his 2013 debut was much more promising. He was extremely weak in the market but ran a really solid race, not given a hard time once beaten but running on into fifth, five and three quarter lengths behind the winner. Those who finished towards the front of that race look sure to be capable of much better things and it was a good effort from Woody Bay in the circumstances. The way he finished suggested that he’d come on significantly for the outing as he just stuck on at the one pace after looking a threat in the final two furlongs.
With a run under his belt and fitness no longer an issue, I’m hopeful of a much more positive run. The jockey booking of Graham Lee is very positive, especially when riding for this yard (7/28 riding 3yo’s from the James Given stable since transferring to the flat) and he’s a much more dynamic jockey than that of James Sullivan who was on board Woody Bay last time out. The selection has been dropped a further 2lbs and I think this is a handicap mark he can win off, especially looking at some of his juvenile form alongside the promise of his latest start. The main issue is that he may ‘run into one’ that is more progressive, given the nature of three year old handicaps but nothing here looks massively well-in and it looks a fairly open heat. Any rain at Nottingham (it is forecast) won’t harm Woody Bay at all as he form on softer surfaces and I’m willing to take a chance at these prices, as it seems to me that he’s been forgotten about in the betting due to their been stables represented such as Hannon, Johnston, Knight and Varian who are much bigger names and have horses that have ‘potential’ to improve on their handicap marks. However, I don’t think this is particularly the case in this instance.
Plenty have gone to the poorhouse backing Mon Brav in recent seasons as he always seems to shape like that he should be winning decent sprint handicaps but for one reason or another, just doesn’t. However, Thirsk is arguably his favourite track, he nearly always goes well fresh and has fallen to such a tempting mark and down in grade that he’s well worth taking a chance on, especially given his price is much bigger than I was expecting. A frustrating sort for Brian Ellison, he was operating off handicap marks in the 80s in the early part of 2012 and held his form quite well during the early part of the campaign, which obviously bodes well for us considering we’re taking a chance on him first time out. He really enjoys Thirsk, having a record here of 11347. The seventh placed finish being over 7f (not his trip, hampered early on anyway) and this sprinting distance around this track is sure to suit. I’ve been a bit perplexed with connections trying to make him a 7f horse as I think it is obvious that he’s a sprinter who just needs a good pace to chase. I presume the fact that he often stays on well over 6f gives them the impression that he needs further but I don’t agree.
Today, he drops to the 0-75 grade and although this is a competitive handicap, he’s got a high draw which is traditionally the best place to be at Thirsk. My theory is that the pace around him will come from Spykes Bay, who will be lit up with the first time headgear and that should give him a good tow into the race. Mon Brav nearly always goes well fresh, recording RPR’s on seasonal reappearance of 85, 65 and 79 in the past three seasons. Brian Ellison continues to have his string in decent knick and I expected Mon Brav to be plenty shorter, so even taking into account his tendency to get going too late, his form round this venue makes him too difficult to go unbacked.
Backing Ellaal might seem tedious considering he has shown virtually zero since joining Ruth Carr and the presence of his stable-mate in Cono Zur might compromise his chance somewhat, but, I’ve long thought this horse was capable of winning a handicap at some stage at this trip and given that I think the potential for rain to fall could work in his favour, alongside the fact that the step up in distance from 7f will suit on all known evidence, he’s worthy of support today and to definitely keep an eye on in the future. He’s an ex Shadwell horse who won in game fashion over 7f back in 2011, shaping like he had a serious future in handicaps. Things didn’t pan out that way last season, barely beating a rival on three starts. However, he did run a couple of races which suggested ability remained, such as when 8th of 13 at Nottingham last October. He faded late on (will have needed the run) and I thought that he could go on to run well in some all-weather contests over the winter. However, he was sold to Ruth Carr for £11,000 and on the face of things, that looks like money down the drain.
I’m not one to give up on a horse too easily and I don’t think that he has been seen to best effect this season. He was entitled to come on for the outing on his first start when given a positive ride, especially as all of Ruth Carr’s have needed their first run in 2013. His last racecourse appearance at Redcar was less easy to excuse, but I don’t think patient tactics suit him and he seems one whose mind you need to make up for him. 7f on quick turf is plenty sharp enough as well when held-up, so I’d think there was potential for there to be something more to come from him. He should be fully wound-up for a start, the step back in trip will suit and the forecast rain I think will also help his cause too, as he doesn’t seem too happy on fast ground and his action suggests a bit of cut will help. Given he was beaten so far last time it does seem ridiculous to suggest he can win, but, given a more positive ride (tracking the leaders) over a more suitable trip and down dramatically in grade, I think he’s got a much bigger chance than his outsider odds suggest. He’ll win a race this season I’m sure and I think there’s enough to suggest that it’s worth chancing that it might be today.
13:45 Lingfield – Fantasy Justifier; 3pts @ 7/1 William Hill
15:50 Ascot – Smarty Socks; 1pt @ 33/1 Bet365
17:05 Nottingham – Woody Bay; 1pt @ 10/1 Bet365, Coral, William Hill
18:15 Thirsk – Mon Brav; 1pt @ 15/2 BetVictor
19:45 Thirsk – Ellaal; 1pt @ 33/1 Bet365, William Hill
Take Best odds Guaranteed