Matt Brocklebank made Newmarket winner Limato his only bet last Monday and looks ahead to this weekend's action with a preview of Epsom's big 10-furlong handicap.
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A welcome return to racing from Epsom but not as we know it on Saturday with this weekend’s one-day card featuring seven races usually spread across the Friday and Saturday of a typical Derby week.
The Investec Derby itself and the Princess Elizabeth Stakes have been salvaged from the usual Saturday programme, while five races traditionally staged on day one help make up this year’s meeting.
Getting the Derby and the Oaks on the same day feels like a bit of a treat but losing a day also means we’ve been shorn of a few really competitive, punter-friendly handicaps in the Investec “Dash”, the 10-furlong Investec Private Banking Handicap for three-year-olds won last year by Le Don De Vie, and the 0-105 Investec Mile.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to make do with just the two Epsom handicaps on Saturday but, having previewed the Classics already at the end of May and sure to take a fresh look – at the Derby at least - after the final decs in Friday’s Value Bet, the Investec Handicap (10 furlong, 4yo+) is where the focus will now lie.
Desert Icon is clear market leader and it’s hard to crab his performance at Newmarket on Sunday, for which he’ll be forced to saddle a penalty if lining up.
Unraced at two, he looked pretty smart occasionally last season and the son of Sea The Stars might just be about to really fulfil his potential having clearly improved for the comeback run on the same Rowley Mile course earlier in June.
The grounds to oppose him, on top of the extra 6lb and step up into a much deeper race (allowed to dictate five-runner field last weekend) are that we’re in the dark as to whether the cheekpieces fitted for the first time there will have the same effect, especially if taken on by the likes of course regular Mr Scaramanga and Mark Johnston’s The Trader, who both look likely to be aimed this direction.
He’s also yet to back up a win and while that’s arguably scraping the barrel a little when it comes to such a lightly-raced horse, you do want everything in your favour if playing a 4/1 shot (5/2 with a couple of firms) in a big weekend handicap several days in advance of the race.
Instead, I’m looking elsewhere and Victory Chime immediately catches the eye being a course and distance winner who has barely done a thing wrong since switching to handicaps. He must be an absolute dream for connections – and a nightmare for the assessors – as he’s managed to win six times in handicap company and is still only 18lb higher than when he first began.
He was successful here when last seen and has won when fresh in the past so the extended break (not sighted since August) might not be such a bad thing.
He’s respected greatly but I can’t get away from the fact that you’re most likely going to need a potential Group horse to win this and two stand out, starting with Tinandali.
Formerly trained by Dermot Weld, he made a great start for David O’Meara (after changing hands for €45,000) when second to Nicholas T at Ayr which, given that horse’s record at the track, is about as reliable as you can get for 10-furlong handicap form north of the border.
Tinandali has been left alone on a mark of 100 and it’s a rating from which he can surely do some damage before the year’s out. He’s definitely got pattern-race potential but so has CARADOC and he looks worth backing now at 12/1 ahead of what could obviously be a monumental Saturday for trainer Ed Walker.
Caradoc was a non-runner at Windsor on Monday after ‘firm in places’ popped into the updated going description and that in spite of Walker clearly stating in the build-up to this horse’s seasonal return that he wants “top of the ground”.
It’s clear connections are keen to have all their ducks in a row for when the gelding does reappear and although he has another weekend option in the Old Newton Cup over a mile and a half at Haydock, I’d be surprised if they rushed back to that trip given how keen he was still on his only previous attempt when beaten narrowly at York’s big August meeting.
He was 4/1 favourite there and only went down half a length but that run was sandwiched by impressive wins over 10 furlongs at Windsor and Newbury, the latter of which came from just 5lb lower than his current mark.
The Windsor form worked out particularly well – throwing up three subsequent winners excluding himself – and after Newbury he went to Lingfield for a Listed event where again he was sent off favourite.
Things didn’t pan out on the Polytrack as he was too keen after being rushed up to be prominent from the widest stall but can be excused the run with a return to turf, and a good pace to chase, certain to more to his liking.
As for the going, it's 'good' at the time of writing with a reasonably clear forecast so we certainly shouldn't be looking at anything verging on extremes come the weekend.
Walker has spoken about his ambitions to travel internationally with Caradoc but before then he has to prove his worth in this sort of company and, while it won’t be a simple task under a big weight, he still retains plenty of potential as a five-year-old and might be the answer to this tricky event.
Sunday’s cards at Sandown and Haydock are arguably even better punting material than Saturday but there’s nothing outstanding at this point in the Old Newton Cup while the ultra-competitive Coral Challenge at the Esher track has yet to be priced up. I look forward to taking a closer look at them in the weekend's Value Bet columns.
Posted at 1650 BST on 29/06/20
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