Take Steps to win Epsom Dash
Jack Nicol offers a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Investec Dash and is backing Steps to continue his winning ways.
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Steps - At the top of his game at the moment and loves a fast pace to aim at, something which he is absolutely guaranteed to get here. He does prefer a bit of juice in the ground and that could be the difference between victory and just missing out - connections will be praying that the forecast rain arrives in time. Leading player.
Eton Rifles - His form ties in with Steps having just been touched off by that rival last time out and is another who prefers a bit of cut in the ground. He keeps running consistently but is nine years old now and probably best ruled out.
Smoothtalkinrascal - Produced a remarkable performance when coming from a mile back in this race last year only to be denied by a neck at the line; that performance was off a mark of 103 and he’s only 3lb higher here so obviously merits a place on the shortlist having already won this term.
Monsieur Joe - Very fast horse who is versatile as regards to tactics as he is able to go from the front or, like at York two runs ago, come with a late run. He is likely to be restrained once again here and connections will be hoping for the gaps to appear as he looked a little unlucky last time out.
Addictive Dream - Speedy seven-year-old who is probably seen to best effect on the all-weather nowadays and not obviously well-treated off a mark of 102 here. One to dismiss.
Ballesteros - Finished last of 17 in this race last season and hasn’t shown too much in three starts for new trainer, Richard Fahey; the current drying ground would also be a negative for his chances and he is best left alone here.
Racy - Generally consistent performer but has been out of form lately; he finished last on his only start at Epsom last year too and is another one to rule out.
Free Zone - Has only beaten four horses home on his last three starts and was well beaten on his seasonal reappearance at Chester last time out. He is still 2lb higher than his last winning mark even when you’ve taken Robert Tart’s 3lb claim into account, it's hard to see him figuring.
Swan Song - It would be fitting if Swan Song managed to win this following the sad death of her dam, Lochsong, just under two weeks ago. The hood was removed slightly late at Haydock last time when she finished last, but if she breaks smartly here she could be in with place claims having won over course and- istance in the past.
Seeking Magic - Has never finished worse than fourth place when tackling five furlongs although he has been campaigned primarily over six, even though two of his four victories have came over the minimum distance. Ryan Tate gets a good tune out of the six-year-old and he must be in with a good shout from stall 17.
Tangerine Trees - Took the Prix De L’Abbaye back in 2011 but has only managed one win in 15 starts since then. At nine years of age he has lost some of that old sparkle but ran well enough at Musselburgh on his reappearance to suggest that he could put in a good performance without getting competitive here.
Caspian Prince - Course-and-distance winner who made most to win here back in April and has gone on to post creditable efforts in defeat when finishing third and second respectively on his subsequent two starts. A career-high mark of 97 makes things tough but he ran well off the same mark at Chester and any rain would certainly aid his cause. Respected.
Hopes N Dreams - Likely outsider inthis field but did make all to win here over six furlongs last season; all of his wins have come over six furlongs so it is hard to see him winning here even though he’s dropped back to a reasonable mark and has a 5lb claimer on his back.
New Fforest - Consistent filly who won two races last season and is ridden by the man of the moment, Oisin Murphy, here; this is her first run for 245 days though and she’s likely to need it, so is best watched for now.
Judge ‘n Jury - At 10 years of age things aren’t getting any easier for old Judge ‘n Jury but he didn’t disgrace himself when trying to make all last time out at Nottingham. However, he was the only confirmed front runner in the field that day and if he couldn’t win there, he’s surely got no chance in this line-up. One to dismiss.
Barnet Fair - Probably prefers a flatter track to the contours of Epsom and is still fairly high in the weights considering he is still 2lb higher than his last winning mark following four or five pretty average runs in defeat since that victory. Another to rule out.
Taajub - Generally runs well at Epsom having been placed here on a couple of occasions, including a fourth in this race back in 2012; he does tend to save his best form for Lingfield though and is probably one to dismiss despite his handy draw.
Even Stevens - Trailblazing six-year-old who has been handed the plum draw of stall 20; expect him to make a bold bid for victory hard on the rail under 7lb claimer, Matthew Hopkins, before being swallowed up inside the final furlong.
Lady Gibraltar - Course-and distance winner who is set to become Tim Jarvis’s first runner as a trainer, she posted a good effort on reappearance last month and would be entitled to come on for that run here. She does still look quite high in the weights, but the useful Joey Haynes negates some of that with his 5lb claim; draw could have been kinder.
Elusivity - Has been running consistently well this year and went as close as he has done to winning since he last got his head in front back in July 2012 last time out at York and could be in the mix off the same mark. Stall six makes things difficult though and, in all honesty, he is unlikely to end his losing streak here.
It’s going to be fast and furious with Even Stevens, Caspian Prince and Tangerine trees among those likely to blitz down the Epsom straight and it’s interesting to note that all three of those horses are berthed in double-figure stalls, potentially offering those horses drawn around them a dream tow into the race. Seeking Magic and Smoothtalkinrascal are drawn perfectly in stalls 17 and 18 respectively and should have decent claims although preference is just for STEPS who has done nothing but improve since winning at Thirsk in May 2013. Roger Varian’s gelding loves coming through beaten horses and his running style will be perfectly complimented in this race. He is also much better with cut in the ground and, with rain forecast, his chances will only increase if the heavens do open. Of the rest, Monsieur Joe is of interest and he can continue his good form but may have to settle for making the frame.
1 - Steps
2 - Smoothtalkinrascal
3 - Monsieur Joe
4 - Caspian Prince