Our resident tipster runs the rule over Wednesday's Doncaster card.
The Doncaster St Leger meeting gets off to a fairly low-key start on Wednesday with the Listed Scarborough Stakes over five furlongs the highlight (arguably as the Legends race should be a belter) of a seven-race card.
It’s drawn a field of 12 and they include a couple of juveniles in Field Of Vision and Sign Of The Zodiac. They get a generous weight-for-age allowance and both bring winning form to the table, but this is still a big step up and I’d much rather back Charlie Hills’ COTAI GLORY.
The three-year-old needs to be excused his below-par effort in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last time when only 11th of the 19 runners, but the soft ground was almost certainly to blame. Like a lot of horses during Ebor week, he didn’t go on it all and today’s “good”, which is drying out all the time, should be perfect. He’s also down considerably in class and is the joint second-highest rated runner behind Medicean Man.
The ground was also riding good when he ran in last year’s Flying Childers Stakes and he went down as one of the unluckiest losers of the entire season, having been two lengths clear when swerving badly right and causing his saddle to slip, giving George Baker no chance of staying aboard. There has been no sign of any quirkiness in four runs since and it was noticeable how well he behaved in the preliminaries at York, even when Take Cover broke through the stalls causing the race to be delayed.
His best run this season was a third in the City Walls Stakes at York on his reappearance, when clearly in need of the run and at a time when his stable was going through a quiet spell. That’s a distant memory now and Hills’ excellent run continued when he sent out out the close second and third in Saturday’s Sprint Cup, once again underlining his prowess with speedsters. Given he likes to target this meeting, it’s fairly safe to assume that the selection will give his true running this afternoon, which would just about be good enough to land the spoils, and victory would be some form of justice for his pilot Baker after last year’s calamity.
The aforementioned Medicean Man has to be respected on his short-head second in the King’s Stand Stakes and like Cotai Glory he never got competitive in the Nunthorpe last time. However you have to go back to June 2013 for his last win on turf and he was well beaten in this race 12 months ago. A bigger danger then may be Monsieur Joe, who looked as good as ever at eight when winning at Tipperary, while another veteran in Kingsgate Native could make his presence felt despite top weight, along with stablemate Speed Hawk.
The aforementioned Legends race over a mile sees the return to the saddle of Tony McCoy – quite possibly for the last time. His mount Gannicus is a dual winner this term, both times at Brighton, and looks to have as good a chance as any, though that hasn’t escaped the notice of bookmakers who have chalked him up as favourite. I might well end up having a sentimental bet on at Hills’ 5/1, but this is not a race for going overboard on punting-wise.
A better bet lies in the seven-furlong Frank Whittle Partnership Handicap in the shape of the hat-trick seeking AKEED CHAMPION. Richard Fahey’s gelding is up in class having win a Redcar maiden and a Newmarket class 4 last time, but he looks to be improving fast and his new mark of 84 almost certainly underestimates him.
Having been called some names in the past it seems connections have figured out the best way to ride the three-year-old, with both his successes coming from well off the pace. Jack Garritty said after the Newmarket race that he needed riding with plenty of confidence and it was always the plan to drop him out and come with one late run, which was carried out to perfection. Jamie Spencer replaces Garritty today but there is no better hold-up jockey in the business and he rides Doncaster particularly well, as evidenced by his healthy 19% strike rate over the past five seasons for a £1 level-stakes profit of £28.82. I rest my case.
The other standout bet on the card is RISK ADJUSTED in the opening seven-furlong nursery handicap and I can’t for the life of me work out why he’s as big as 10/1. Okay, it’s a competitive race and one in which virtually all the runners can be given a chance of sorts. But none can boast such a sexy form line as the selection, who recent Sandown second could not have worked out better.
Ann Duffield’s charge was beaten just a head by Sir Mark Prescott’s Time Warp, with a near two-length gap back to Carrington in third. The winner was the first to frank the form when following up in a French Listed event and the third did his bit when winning a nursery at Goodwood six days later, and reopposes here. The handicapper doesn’t miss a trick and has raised the selection 6lb, but he may still be improving after just six starts and is evidently held in some regard at home judging by his entry in next month’s Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar.
There is probably a reason why he’s as a big as he is today and a couple may prove to be better handicapped (Richard Hannon’s Tidal Wave scares me most), but I cannot see any downside to a decent each-way punt at a double-figure price with Sky Bet, who are one quarter the odds (a fifth elsewhere). They are also offering to refund losing win stakes (as a free bet, up to £25) if your horse finishes second and third – you can’t say fairer than that!