Chris Day takes an early look at the weekend's feature action and fancies Good Birthday to land the Dubai Duty Free Handicap.
There are quality cards at Ayr and Newbury on Saturday with the main betting opportunities coming in the cavalry charge that is the QTS Ayr Gold Cup and Newbury’s traditional Cambridgeshire trial, the Dubai Duty Free Handicap over ten furlongs.
Ayr currently reports soft going, something of an unknown for the most unexposed runner in the line up, King’s Lynn, owned by Her Majesty The Queen.
Trained by Andrew Balding, who has few peers at laying one out for a big handicap, his latest second to Starman at Doncaster couldn't have been more strongly franked than when the winner routed a Listed field at York beating rivals rated 109, 102, 111 and 109 in the process.
Rated just 94, he sticks out as being well handicapped and has winning form in a big field on a straight track when he landed a Doncaster sales race last autumn, beating a 101 rated rival in the process.
Everything says he’ll go well but he’s got to prove it on the ground and is entered in a Listed race at Newbury on Saturday. If he goes there he should run well and equally he should take the beating if venturing to Scotland.
Recent winners have been of a similar profile to Richard Fahey’s Mr Lupton, one time high class sprinters who have found their form again and can continue to thrive at this time of year.
Having been rated as high as 113 at his peak, he won at the Curragh on Sunday off 100 and, whilst penalised for that success here, remains feasibly treated and the ground should not inconvenience him either.
Saturday’s Portland winner, Stone of Destiny, looks like taking his chance for Balding as well and in-form sprinters can be worth following as we all know, a comment which applies to the runner up in that contest, Danzeno.
It’s difficult to write almost anything off here but the one I’m siding with at this stage is the Tim Easterby trained HYPERFOCUS, who could be called the winner at every stage at Haydock last time, winning comfortably despite idling late on.
He arguably needed that win to get into this race and, despite disappointing on two previous visits to this meeting, I think the trainer has him in top form and a low weight could see him difficult to catch.
Last October at York he was a gallant second to Gulliver in a similar contest and remains on a competitive mark in a race which could suit him ideally.
Highly thought of by his previous trainer, Hugo Palmer and with no question marks over the ground, there’s some 25-1 on offer and that seems the fairest value at this stage with the worry being will he make the final field?
Three horses rated 95 got in last year and Hyperfocus is effectively rated 93 for Saturday's contest, needing nine horses above him to come out. On balance, it's a risk I'm willing to take.
The other race which lends itself to a bet at this stage is the Dubai Duty Free Handicap, due off at 2.15 at Newbury, one of the hottest races of its type staged all season.
These races tend to attract improving three-year olds and the ant- post favourite is the William Haggas-trained Ilarab. His three victories this season culminated in the Beverley handicap used as a stepping stone to the Cambridgeshire in recent seasons and he could obviously be anything, as is reflected in his price.
Similar comments apply to John Gosden’s Tenbury Wells, an American bred who appeared to be found out by Sandown’s hill over this trip last time after victories at Chelmsford and Ascot. Clearly given his connections he will be expected to be contesting pattern races sooner rather than later but he’s also priced accordingly.
The other three-year-old who’s been promising to win a race of this type for a while now is Starcat, seventh behind Kameko in the 2000 Guineas before contesting handicaps at Group One tracks the last three times. Everybody knows he’s ready to win but there’s no juice in the price and he’ll need to do it first before I want to back him when so short.
Ouzo, trained by Richard Hannon, has form with a very strong look to it with Top Rank, just two places ahead of him at York last time, going on to win a Haydock Group Three on his latest start. He’s putting together some very good runs and this step up to ten furlongs may be just what he needs to get his nose in front.
As previously mentioned, Andrew Balding is a man to have on your side at this time of year and he has two likely types in here.
The four year old filly, Inclyle, has presumably been kept for this time of year after circumnavigating the field in a Newmarket handicap in June. Involved, the horse she beat, is now rated 14lbs higher after winning his next two races so she could be thrown in off just a 4lbs higher mark.
She’s shown she goes well fresh and has to be respected but the biggest danger and selection is her stablemate, GOOD BIRTHDAY, who looks primed for a good autumn.
It’s now clear he had an almost impossible task when third off an 8lbs higher mark to Lord North and Beringer in last year’s Cambridgeshire and he’s been running in races which didn’t necessarily play to his strengths on the last three starts while his rating has been in free fall.
With Silvestre De Sousa already jocked up this looks the aim and the 16/1 on offer is big value at this stage.
For anyone looking further ahead I feel the 33-1 available for Newmarket in two weeks’ time is also worth taking as we know a fast-run Cambridgeshire will really suit him.
I would have liked to find an angle in both the Dubai Duty Legacy Free Stakes and Jordan Electrics Doonside Cup but the races have attracted a number of the same horses and ground conditions will presumably determine who goes where so no bet has to be the recommendation at this time.
Good Birthday 2.15 Newbury Saturday 16/1
Hyperfocus 3.40 Ayr 25/1
Preview posted at 1110BST on 15/09/2020