Flame to burn brightly
Simon Holt previews Saturday's action and has two fancies for the Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
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2pts win Countrywide Flame in 15.35 Newmarket at 10/1 (Betfred, totesport).
1pt e.w. Tominator in 15.35 Newmarket at 14/1 (Boylesports, William Hill).
Countrywide Flame, a horse rated 152 over jumps after winning the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, could well be a handicap snip in the Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket off a Flat-race mark of 88.
John Quinn's tough and enthusiastic galloper, whose career has been one of constant progression, carries a 4lb penalty for a typically game comeback win at Chester last month (runner-up Ardlui has franked the form since) but is set to go up a further 2lb in future handicaps.
If the difference between the Jumps and Flat scales is judged to be around 35lb, then Countrywide Flame has clear potential to improve on his current efforts on the level and it seems quite clear that the shrewd Quinn has specifically targeted this race before returning the four-year-old to hurdling this winter when a crack at the Champion Hurdle could well be a possibility.
However, in a maximum field, there are many alternatives and the best of those may be Tominator, winner of last season's Northumberland Plate, and in good form after a fairly quiet start to the current campaign.
Now with Jonjo O'Neill, and another likely smart hurdler in the months to come, this tough grey also won at Chester in September and was only narrowly beaten when fourth at the Doncaster St Leger meeting subsequently, staying on powerfully at the end of a mile and six furlongs.
Tominator should relish the Cesarewitch test and looks great each-way value while the stoutly-bred Albert Bridge and quietly developing Oh Ma Lad are two others who I can see running well.
Unfortunately, there is little inspiration available in this quarter concerning the two Group One two-year-events as Dawn Approach looks hard to oppose in the Dewhurst Stakes while Reckless Abandon may also justify likely favouritism in the Middle Park.
Dawn Approach, who bids to give his trainer Jim Bolger a remarkable fifth victory in the last seven runnings of Britain's premier juvenile contest, is unbeaten in five starts and destroyed the opposition in the Vincent O'Brien Stakes at The Curragh which was his first race since winning the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June (beating the likes of Olympic Glory and Sir Prancealot) and his first since being purchased by Godolphin.
The son of New Approach looks a worthy favourite, both for this race and next year's 2000 Guineas, and faces just five rivals with Ashdan, unbeaten in two starts at a lower level for John Gosden, probably the best of them. Incidentally, look out for the Bolger-trained Trading Leather in the Autumn Stakes at 16.40 as I think this could be a very good horse in the making.
Reckless Abandon is inclined to race erratically - you may recall that he swerved across the course before winning the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot - but has bundles of ability and maintained his unbeaten record with two high-grade victories in France subsequently.
Chief danger Moohaajim was only fifth behind Clive Cox's smart colt in the Prix Morny at Deauville and has something to find on that form, but then earned rave reviews from jockey Adam Kirby when landing the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury next time.
Kirby chooses to stick with Moohaajim but he could also have ridden Reckless Abandon; the early market indications are that he may have chosen wrongly and I agree.