Our racing expert has run the rule over the bookies-com-sponsored races at Carlisle this afternoon.
Here at bookies.com we’re proud sponsors of the historic Carlisle Bell Handicap (due off 3.35pm), the feature race at the Cumbrian track this afternoon run over a trip just short of a mile (47 yards to be exact), and the generous prize money has helped attract a maximum field of 17.
Four were winners last-time-out, including last year’s fourth Woody Bay. He narrowly edged a three-way finish over 1m1f at York just 11 days ago and is just 3lb higher here. However, he’s 8lb higher than 12 months ago and may again find one or two too good. The same comment applies to last year’s sixth, Ginger Jack, although the nine-year-old arrives here in great nick after posting his 10th career success on his 60th start at Thirsk last time. Kalk Bay was a winner over 7f at Musselburgh earlier this month and that is arguably his best trip, while he’s never won off this high a mark on turf.
The remaining last-time-out winner, the Alan Swinbank-trained LAVETTA, makes far more appeal and I think she’ll win. Why? She’s a lightly-raced sort and was scoring for the third time in just 11 starts in a higher grade at Doncaster at the beginning of June under today’s pilot Darryll Holland, who is now an eye-catching 2-5 (40%) on the stable runners. That was over 7f, as were her two previous wins, but she shapes like she will get a mile no problem and her stamina-laden pedigree – she’s by Arc winner Peintre Celebre – also provides plenty of encouragement for that. All ground seems to come alike to her and I’ll be amazed if she’s not rated a good deal higher than her current 81 come the season end.
The icing in the cake is her draw in stall two as low numbers were heavily favoured last year, when the first five home were drawn 2-5-4-1-3 in that order. Of course, much depends on where the pace is but with Jacbequick, who made most when winning at Beverley two starts back, and Muntahaa, another prominent racer, in stalls one and five respectively, she might just be in the ideal place.
Others worthy of a mention are top weight Dubai Dynamo, who is looking as good as ever at the age of 11 and is running under a 6lb penalty for last week’s Hamilton success. A winner of a charity race under his trainer Ruth Carr previously, he’s clearly in rude health and could give the selection most to do – he’s worth a saver, perhaps?
He’s much preferred over Funding Deficit, who has done most of his winning over shorter and is on a career-high mark, and Hard To Handel, who looks the pick of David O’Meara’s trio of runners and has been running well on the all-weather at Newcastle. He looks the type of horse that needs a bit of luck, though, and is 11lb higher than when last winning on turf.
The bookies.com Carlisle Bell Consolation (due off 3.00pm) has also drawn a maximum field of 17 and they are headed by Iain Jardine’s Cymraeg Bounty, who is bidding for a hat-trick after back-to-back wins at Ayr. However, both successes came over longer trips and his trainer went on record as saying that the key to his improved form was stepping up from a mile and even suggested he would have no problem staying 1m4f. This is a stiff mile and he was in front a long way from home last time but, even so, this shorter trip might just find him out. The stable has yet to have a winner at this track in 18 attempts.
Just Be Lucky is another hat-trick chaser dropping back in trip following wins at Haydock (1m) and Wetherby (1m1f) last time. His trainer Ivan Furtado, who is paying his first visit to the track, has clearly got the four-year-old in peak form and, while up another 5lb here, he is respected in first-time blinkers. Likewise Artful Prince who is running under a 6lb penalty for his success over 1m1f here nine days ago, half of which is negated by his rider’s claim. But his trainer James Given said afterwards that nine furlongs is his optimum trip, so he too has a question to answer back over shorter.
Mick Easterby’s QAFFAAL is going in the other direction as he is stepping up from 7f after winning over that trip at Musselburgh last time. However, he was doing all his best work at the finish on that occasion and we know he stays at least this far as he was successful over 1m1/2f at Wolverhampton on his reappearance in April, despite not getting a clear run. Now 2-3 for 2016, he looks to have improved again since last season and reverting to a mile could see him produce a career-best performance. He’s just 3lb higher this afternoon and that is more than taken care of by his rider Nathan Evans’ 5lb claim.
His veteran trainer doesn’t have a great strike rate here (4% since 2012), admittedly, but he has an awful lot of runners and is in form with six winners in the last fortnight. In which case, I’m more than happy to take a punt on the improving five-year-old at a double-figure price in a wide open renewal.