Spirit can land Victoria Cup
Ian Brindle’s horse-by-horse guide to the £7.5m Totepool Scoop6 Victoria Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
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No stranger to victory at Ascot and perfectly suited by the hustle and bustle of big handicaps. Won the 2012 Ayr Gold Cup and made a fair reappearance at Ripon over an inadequate six furlongs. Big weight to carry though rain should assist his chance.
Nearly three years since he last visited the winners enclosure but always thereabouts in big handicaps. Second to Excellent Guest in this race last year and went on to be second to Heaven’s Guest in October. Capable on any going though 10lb higher in this renewal with Jack Garritty's claim offsetting seven of that extra burden.
A credit to connections last season and won Challenge Cup before being predictably outclassed in the Champions Day Sprint. Ran far better than his finishing position suggests in Abernant Stakes and cannot be ruled out on this drop in grade.
Should have come on for a couple of runs this season and was sent off as favourite for last year’s Wokingham. Second behind Redvers over C&D in September (reopposes off same terms) and not disgraced when ninth in the Ayr Gold Cup.
Served up a 33/1 surprise when landing the Royal Hunt Cup but subsequently failed to make the bridge to Group performer when tried at Deauville and Munich. Well held in Cambridgeshire and has something to prove despite a 2lb drop in the weights.
Appears revitalised for switch to David Brown and no crabbing his recent victory over Louis The Pious at Haydock. Ran well in the International but below par on next two starts at Ascot. Clearly in good heart at present.
Ran a stinker at Wolverhampton but returns to turf and is 1lb lower than when scoring at Ascot in October 2011. A former Group 3 winner, and was sixth in this race back in 2012 (off a 2lb higher mark), he has historically been able to run well when fresh.
Dont Bother Me
Highly tried by previous connections and showed plenty of pace when seventh in the Jersey Stakes. A decent enough effort on his first start for Marco Botti but will need to have come on for that run.
Beaten favourite on his reappearance though was never far away in the big handicaps at Ascot last year – finishing eighth in this race; sixth in the Buckingham Palace and third in the International before chalking up another third in the Challenge Cup. Should have come on for reappearance at Kempton and won’t be inconvenienced if the rain arrives.
First time headgear did the trick at Kempton and now returns to turf despite five modest efforts previously. Dam has thrown winners with cut in the ground so not out of the question that he can do so.
Louis The Pious
Tough handicapper that seldom runs a bad race and appeared to show plenty of improvement for a previous run when second to Glen Moss at Haydock. Headgear reapplied though big question as to whether he is quite so effective over seven furlongs.
Put up two big performances over six furlongs at Doncaster though has shown an aptitude for this trip in the past. Without the blinkers he sported on Town Moor but still very lightly raced and potentially open to improvement.
Often well supported and comes into this assignment following two convincing victories on Lingfield’s Polytrack. Now some 13lb higher than his last success on turf but stable are flying at present and it would be no surprise to see him continuing that run.
Something of an Ascot specialist and was fourth in last year's renewal. More to do off a 9lb higher mark though arrives having had the benefit of a recent outing under his belt.
Campaigned at a high level by Mick Channon and signed off his 2013 campaign with victory at Newmarket, having finished tenth in the Britannia. Pleasing enough reappearance and the combination of Cumani and Dettori sure to be popular in the betting offices.
Last year's winner and has been trained by George Margarson with a title defence in mind. Attempts a repeat without a prep (he won this first time out last term) and is off the same handicap mark as 12 months ago. His duckeggs can be overlooked but any softening of the ground would have to be against him.
Former winner of the Cambridgeshire and showed plenty of zest when lit up by first time headgear at Newbury at last month. Third in the Britannia in 2012 and now appears to be off a feasible mark provided the track doesn’t experience too much rain.
Don’t Call Me
Regular in Listed company and fourth in last year's Royal Hunt Cup off a mark of 105. 10lb lower mark on this occasion and the previous C&D winner should be watched in the market despite some fairly ordinary efforts of late.
Burn The Boats
Exceptionally lightly raced given his age but landed a gamble at the Curragh when a similarly large field obtained. Only ninth in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket last season, though respected given the current form of his yard.
Won an early season contest at Pontefract last year but has enjoyed more success on artificial surfaces with six wins from 17 starts. Gets in off a much lower mark on turf yet it’s hard to see him being good enough.
Eighth in the Spring Mile at Doncaster and appeared to run above himself when subsequent fourth in a hot handicap at Haydock. Showed that to be no fluke when second to the well-touted Horsted Keynes at Yarmouth, and is likely to be among the pacesetters.
Previous winner at Ascot over six furlongs and was a solid third in the apprentice handicap on Champions Day. Blinkers reapplied after a poor run at Haydock and he could be capable of making his current odds look massive if they work the oracle.
Smart handicapper last term and just failed when holding every chance at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance. Yard definitely in form and the value of that formline looks strong with the winner placing in a Haydock handicap, and the fourth subsequently obliging in a Listed contest. An obvious chance despite a middle draw.
Made running on his reappearance at Leicester before weakening close home. Finished eighth in the International under similar forcing tactics and whilst the handicapper has dropped him significantly down the weights, others are more convincing.
Maiden winner for Andrew Balding and was tried in the Dewhurst before being sold cheaply to current connections. Kept on well at Lingfield on most outing though largely opposable on what he’s previously shown on turf.
Boots And Spurs
At his best on soft ground or Polytrack and invariably runs well at the start of the season. Produced a creditable front running effort performance on Champions Day but needs to leave behind an ordinary run at Doncaster.
Won his last two starts at Wolverhampton but was well beaten in the Britannia Stakes on his only previous visit to Ascot and the suspicion is that he needs fast ground to be at his best.
Largely campaigned on artificial surfaces but no mug on turf – placing in two competitive handicaps at Ayr and Redcar at the back end of last term. Should be fitter than most but handicapper hasn’t taken too many chances.
Former Godolphin inmate that ran out a convincing winner of a Thirsk handicap last week. No surprise to see him hit with a massive rise but it has been enough to get him in this race. A major step up in class but a light racing weight and could be a factor if rain arrives in any volume.
This year's renewal seems as competitive as ever and the differential in weight between top and bottom tells its own story. With a mixed weather forecast, the draw is likely to play its part and a low draw could be beneficial. LOVING SPIRIT certainly fits the bill in stall seven and though he's yet to bag a big handicap at Ascot; it’s possible we haven't seen the best of him. Four-year-old's had a decent record in the 2000's so Purcell has to be a player if he can translate his form to turf, while Brownsea Brink has a tough draw to work from though the form of his Newbury run has already been well advertised. Richard Fahey’s runners are always worth a second glance in big handicaps and Flyman could be a big player if the rain arrives in time. Bertiewhittle and Pastoral Player aren’t frequent winners by any stretch of the imagination but these two old stagers have every chance of hitting the frame if everything falls right.