Our racing attempts to fathom the generally unfathomable feature handicap at Newmarket on Saturday.
One of the most prestigious handicaps in the calendar and always a fierce betting heat, although it’s impossible to be confident about anything and stakes should be kept small. Last year’s 6/1 favourite Thundering Blue had a ton in hand over his rivals and has since shown himself to be a Group performer, but a poor ride from Jim Cowley sealed his fate – he was switched far side when the action came up the stands’ rail and had too much to do – and the race went to a 50/1 rag, with the next two home priced at 100/1 and 50/1.
Clearly, you shouldn’t let a big price put you off and while those near the head of the market might have more appealing profiles, being lightly-raced sorts with Group potential, it usually pays to concentrate on those with higher mileage and definitely with more handicap experience. I’m also going to ignore the draw for betting purposes as it’s proved inconclusive in recent years, with four of the last eight winners drawn 11 or lower and three of the exceptions breaking from 28, 29 and 31.
So, I’m making no apologies for putting up a couple of relative outsiders who meet the above criteria and first up is Andrew Balding’s ZWAYYAN. A five-year-old with 18 starts under his belt, he arrives here in the form of his life having held on well to land a decent 1m handicap at Chelmsford two starts back, when giving the impression he would stay further, and then finding only one too good in another handicap at Ascot run in a good time. He’s running off the same mark and star apprentice Jason Watson, who is claiming a handy 3lb off his back, is renewing the partnership.
David O’Meara’s WAARIF is another five-year-old on the crest of a wave having won four of his last six starts, including the Carlisle Bell and at Ayr just seven days ago, when leading approaching the final furlong and gamely holding off the challenge of the runner-up. He picked up a 4lb penalty for that success but he’s likely to go up by more for future races and most of it is taken care of by Conor McGovern’s claim besides. His trainer, writing in a Stable Tour this week, said he’d see how he came out of that race before committing him, so he’s presumably still bouncing at home and further improvement can’t be ruled out.
We can back both selections each-way at 33/1 down to seven places and that looks like good value to me in a race where we should expect the unexpected.
All odds were correct at time of posting.