Super Saturday. High class action from Newmarket, York and Ascot spoils us this Saturday on ITV and I can’t help but get stuck into those tricky punter’s puzzles, the big handicaps.
The weather is a big unknown again this weekend, with plenty of rain forecast, it’s a case of the volume and where it hits that keeps us guessing.
3.10 YORK – SEA THE CASPAR & MILLEBOSC
The John Smith’s Cup, one of the longest-running sponsorships in British racing dating back to the 1960s is always a hotly contested handicap, won last year by subsequent Group 1 winner Anmaat on his seasonal debut.
My old mate Faylaq looks a big price to run well again, just 2lb higher than when touched off over track and trip in October and continues to run well but rarely wins, while Spirit Dancer always goes well here and can be expected to again but is 5lb higher than last year in an equally deep contest.
Sonny Liston ran well to be second in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot but this trip on potentially softening ground could stretch him and I really do like a pair against the field.
First up is SEA THE CASPAR who was backed as if defeat was out of the question at Lingfield on his return and he made all to win readily. He gets in here with a 5lb penalty while the assessor stuck him up 9lb, so he is 4lb ‘well in’ on just his ninth career start. It looked like he progressed plenty over the winter and comes from a high-class family. Bar one blip at Newbury last September, he has a solid profile and from a handy draw in four he looks set to play a major part.
The other I like is MILLEBOSC on second start for William Haggas. Whatever the trainer runs in his native Yorkshire is worth a second glance and although stall 20 is an obstacle to overcome, there is no doubting this 5yo is well treated. He was third in a French Derby behind St Mark’s Basilica and Champion Stakes winner Sealiway as a 3yo before his form tailed off. His stable debut on the all-weather wasn’t devoid of promise and he has been gelded since. A decent break and return to soft ground could see a huge run from this talented ex-French 5yo and he cannot go unbacked. If returning to form, he has a huge class edge over the field.
4.00 NEWMARKET – STREETS OF GOLD & STAR OF ORION
The Bunbury Cup is another tough handicap to solve but did us a good turn last year when Bless Him scored at 25/1. He is back for more but softer ground is a concern for him so I will look elsewhere with another couple that standout.
Three-year-olds don’t have a great record, it is 1998 since the last one won but not a whole host have tried. STREETS OF GOLD ran a cracker to be third in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and is 4lb well in here. He has Group 2 entries later in the season suggesting connections think he can aim higher still but are looking to exploit a favourable mark. He has form on all types of ground and big fields are no issue as he proved when winning the big nursery at York’s Dante meeting. He also landed a big sales pot at The Curragh in a juvenile career that yielded five victories. Including one on this July course.
The other to be interested in is STAR OF ORION. He doesn’t have a great strike rate, but at a double-figure price he must be backed each way. He was sent off just 9/1 for this race last year but was well beaten, however he is 6lb lower for a tilt this time round. Both of his wins have come at HQ, on each course. In fact, his form figures across both courses here read 1021722 and he is another who won't mind what underfoot conditions bring. He is 4lb better off with market leader Montassib for a length beating and is drawn centre field. He must enter calculations for a Ralph Beckett team in great form at present.
4.35 NEWMARKET – AZURE BLUE
A smaller field than usual for the July Cup and Shaquille, so impressive after a slow start in the Commonwealth Cup, will be all the rage with a new man, Rossa Ryan, in the plate. He has form on soft ground so that won’t bother him, and he can be fancied to uphold the form with Little Big Bear, who had an injury scare early in week and whose participation has been in doubt.
Khaadem has been supplemented after his surprise success at Royal Ascot but he isn’t consistent enough to be confident about, while Kinross will relish softer conditions and was an eye-catcher behind Khaadem in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.
I think they may all be playing for places though behind AZURE BLUE for Michael Dods. The handler certainly has a knack with female sprinters, Mecca’s Angel and Mabs Cross were both Group 1 winners while the likes of Dakota Gold and Comanche Falls have flown the flag in sprint handicaps for years. AZURE BLUE has progressed rapidly over the last 12 months. She has four of her five starts at Newmarket and beat Highfield Princess nicely at York in May, form that has been franked subsequently. She hasn’t finished her progress yet and the forecast rain will be music to the ears of connections.
*18+ | BeGambleAware