It's Shergar Cup day at Ascot on Saturday and Matt Brocklebank picks out the best value plays there and on the quality card at Haydock.
1pt win Judicial in 2.10 Ascot at 11/1 (Sky Bet, 888Sport)
1pt e.w. Certain Lad in 3.00 Haydock at 33/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4)
1pt win Approachability in 4.30 Ascot at 12/1 (bet365)
Haydock once again provides solace for those on the lookout for more forgiving ground after almost 25mm hit the track Monday night into Tuesday morning and, as a result, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if three-time course specialist Young Fire enjoyed conditions a lot more than when playing only a bit-part role behind stablemate Orbaan in the Golden Mile at Goodwood last week.
He’s priced up quite conservatively around 11/2 for the Betfred ‘Play Fred’s £5 Million’ Handicap, but at least there’s a bigger field to get stuck into in the feature Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes.
The market is almost completely dominated by the William Haggas-trained Grocer Jack and the big-money buy from Germany should be far too classy if his Champion Stakes entry is even bordering on realistic.
He certainly looked to be going places when bolting up in a 10-furlong Listed race at Newbury last month, after which connections seemed surprised how well he’d coped with the good to firm going on that occasion.
If ease underfoot is what he really wants then the money will probably continue to pour in for him but it looks quite open away from the favourite and there’s a decent each-way shape to it.
Andrew Balding's 20/1 shot Foxes Tales would have a sniff on the form of his win in this race 12 months ago but 2020 runner-up CERTAIN LAD is the type to pop up with a massive run when least expected – he’s been 33/1 and 10/1 for his last two wins – and a return to less lively ground should definitely play to his strengths.
His trainer Mick Channon has won this race with 9/1 and 14/1 shots in the past and it’s interesting to see connections having another shot in Group company after not being completely disgraced when ending up mid-pack in the John Smith’s Cup won by the reopposing Anmaat (similar terms) at York last month.
Certain Lad wasn’t unlucky not to finish in the frame but he didn’t get a smooth passage at all after racing far too freely in the early stages, and he was mad keen and not really letting himself down on the ground when eighth after a bad start in the Wolferton Stakes the previous month.
Prior to that he’d made quite an encouraging comeback after missing the whole of 2021, splitting a couple of 112-rated rivals when second in the Huxley Stakes at Chester (good ground - replay below).
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It's probably no real surprise that he's taken a couple of runs to settle back into things after the layoff but on that reappearance run it looks like the ability remains intact and perhaps a return to this venue – where he won a handicap from a mark of 96 in 2019 – will spark him back to peak form.
In-form Ben Curtis (operating at 33% strike-rate so far in August) gets on really well with the horse, who should get a strong pace to chase courtesy of Marie’s Diamond, Peter The Great and a couple of other prominent racers including Grocer Jack himself, and he looks a big price to go well if the jolly fluffs his lines.
First-time visiting jockeys can obviously find things tricky at the Shergar Cup so I’ll be sticking to experienced Ascot regulars and can’t resist a dart at old boy JUDICIAL under (old boy) Frankie Dettori in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Dash.
Julie Camacho’s stable stalwart hasn’t raced in a handicap since winning off 97 at Pontefract in 2017 and could really appreciate a long-awaited significant dip in grade after not really firing at Newcastle earlier this year.
Having said that, he did run a game enough race when second to Venturous at Gosforth Park back in March and he’s been lightly raced since. He tends to go well fresh from a break so the 42 days off since the last run isn’t a concern at all and it’s worth noting his Listed win at Chester this time last year was the fifth victory of his career achieved in the month of August.
His all-in August form reads 112061113, the one major blob coming in the 2018 Nunthorpe, and we can safely ignore a no-show on his only previous Ascot appearance too as that also came in Group One company when down the field in the King’s Stand three summers ago.
You can guess all you like about the draw on the straight track at this venue and I’m not sure why this race was switched to a ‘centre’ stalls position after always being ‘stands side’ in the past, but Tis Marvellous, who was drawn 1, ultimately short-headed Desert Safari, who came from stall 8 and ended up the opposite side of the track.
The fast-starting grey King Of Stars helped set things up for Tis Marvellous from a low draw 12 months ago and he’s in 8 this time so I don’t mind Judicial being two away in 10 as he’s usually not too far off the speed when on his A-game.
There’s no doubt he’s past his best now but a big run at a double-figure price here wouldn’t come as a shock.
No jockey has more Shergar Cup winners to their name than Hayley Turner and she can light the place up again on APPROACHABILITY.
He’s still seeking a first win of the campaign but the (Charlie and) Mark Johnston yard has won the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic four times, including the past two editions, and there didn't appear to be any fluke about Approachability's solid sixth at 40/1 at Goodwood last week.
Not brilliantly drawn in 10, he was on the back foot from the off following a slow start and raced keenly three-wide heading into the first turn.
He basically had no shot from that point as the three horses who went on to contest the finish (Secret State, Maksud and Inverness) all settled nicely on the inside rail and in the circumstances the selection ran on pretty well to be beaten under four lengths after being boxed in behind horses with a couple of furlongs to travel.
Stall nine isn’t an issue at all over a mile and a half at Ascot – some would argue it’s a positive – and the Yorkshire raider doesn't have horses of Great Voltigeur-bound Secret State’s calibre to deal with here either.
There’s loads in his favour after being eased a pound to a mark of 91 and the price looks generous.
Published at 1530 BST on 05/08/22
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