What are the bets bets at Newmarket and Newbury?
There is competitive action wherever you look this afternoon and here are my thoughts on the seven races – four from Newbury, including the Lockinge, and three from Newmarket – being shown live on Channel 4.
14:45 Newbury – Al Rayyan Stakes (Registered As The Aston Park Stakes) (Group 3), 1m4f5y
Eagle Top is comfortably clear on the ratings and his best efforts from last year – most notably his nose second behind Postponed in the Group 1 King George at Ascot – give him outstanding claims. However, he doesn’t win that often (career record 2-9) and is unlikely to be fully wound up for his first run back.
He may still win but, at the forecast odds, it could be worth taking a chance on David Simcock’s CARNACHY (4/1 bet365). She was progressive last season and looked better again when beating a decent sort on her reappearance and connections are looking at races like the Lancashire Oaks and Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland, in which case she should be competitive here getting 3lb from the colts and with Ryan Moore booked.
15:00 Newmarket – Betfair Acca Edge Handicap, 1m6f
Simcock looks to have bright prospects here too with Desert Encounter, a recent Doncaster scorer and now chasing a hat-trick after winning at Musselburgh on his final start last season. However, he has beaten a total of just six horses in the process and was very much favoured by the slow early gallop over 1m4f last time, which leaves him with something to prove over this longer trip.
Charlie Appleby’s WOLFCATCHER is much preferred at Hills’ 9/2. He showed some useful Flat when trained by Andre Fabre in France and is fit from a hurdles campaign, which saw him win at Market Rasen before signing off under that sphere with a run in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, Appleby may well have inherited a well handicapped horse who looks sure to stay at least this far and his booking of Adam Kirby catches the eye, with the rider boasting a 30% strike rate (64-214) on all the stable runners for a £1 level-stakes profit of £53.98 over the last five seasons.
15:20 Newbury – Toronado Carnarvon Stakes (Listed), 6f8y
A fascinating contest featuring some unexposed sprinting prospects. Richard Hannon is double-handed with King Of Rooks and Log Out Island, both of whom were decent juveniles last season and have reportedly done well over the winter, while Roger Varian clearly thinks plenty of his Newmarket maiden winner Tasleen judging by his entry in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup.
But that Ascot race will be on the agenda of several of these, including Marco Botti’s DHAHMAAN (10/1 bet365). He was 3-4 last season and, while a little disappointing when only fourth in a Group 3 at Ascot on his reappearance, he should do much better with that run under his belt. He ideally needs cut in the ground – the drying surface last time wouldn’t have helped his chances – and today’s conditions (they’re calling it ‘good to soft, soft in places’) can help him reverse placings with the Ascot runner-up Dream Dubai and, should he run well as expected, put himself firmly in line for a crack at Group 1 honours later in the season.
15:35 Newmarket – Betfair Cash Out King Charles II Stakes (Listed), 7f
The ground may have gone against Mick Channon’s Free handicap runner-up Scrutineer, whose best form form is with cut, and Charlie Hills’ Elronaq may need his first run back having met with a small setback a month ago. In which case, Sir Michael Stoute’s THIKRIYAAT can justify 6/4 favouritism (bet365) and land a hat-trick under Ryan Moore. A Chelmsford maiden winner last October, he looked a much stronger horse when winning a conditions race over track and trip on his reappearance and he wouldn’t need to find much to shrug off this step up in grade.
15:55 Newbury – Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series), 1m
A wide open renewal of this prestigious Group 1 contest won by the likes of Farhh, Frankel, Canford Cliffs and Paco Boy this decade. The last two horses in that list were trained by Richard Hannon Snr and his son has carried on where he left off by winning the last two renewals with Olympic Glory and Night Of Thunder 12 months ago, so his Toormore demands plenty of respect and especially as he’s coming off a Group 2 success at Sandown on his reappearance (Dutch Connection and Belardo behind). However, he wouldn’t be quite in the same class as some of the stable’s previous winners and, while he won a Group 1 at two, he has come up short on no less than occasions at the highest level since, including when finishing second 12 months ago.
Besides, Belardo could well turn the tables on him here. Roger Varian’s charge is already a Group 1 winner, albeit also in his two-year-old days when landing the Dewhurst Stakes by two lengths from Kodi Bear (more on him in a bit). Having won well on his reappearance at Doncaster in April, he was sent off 13/8 favourite for the Sandown race and he should have done better as his jockey James Doyle sat too far off the pace, being a good 12 lengths off the winner turning for home before running on to be beaten just two lengths at the finish. All his best form is with cut in the ground, which is forecast, he should make a bold bid under more enterprising tactics.
However, the one to be on is the aforementioned KODI BEAR at bet365’s 9/2. A smart juvenile, he made giant strides last season when winning in Group 2 and Group 3 company, before not being beaten far in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes on his final start on Champions’ Day at Ascot. That run can be upgraded as according to his trainer Clive Cox he had a “small hiccup” leading up to the race and was also very fresh beforehand, which didn’t help his cause either. Reported to have done particularly well for his winter break – his trainer says he looks “amazing” and rates him an “exciting prospect” for this season – he deserves another crack at this level and I’m not too concerned about him turning up here without a run. His stable has made a great start to the season and Cox has been able to get plenty of work into him, including a couple of racecourse gallops at Kempton. The ground should be find for him too as he won his Group 2 on soft and was runner-up in the Dewhurst on a similar surface
Of the rest, I’ve a sneaky feeling that Gm Hopkins is going to run better than his 16/1 Betfred price tag would suggest and he is worth a small each-way saver. He has done most of his winning in handicap company including the 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot last June, before running second in an even more valuable mile handicap at the same track in October. Now rated 114 after winning a Listed contest (again at Ascot) on his reappearance, his handicap days are now behind him and he wouldn’t have to find much improvement to make his mark in what is a wide open Group 1. He makes more appeal than Limato, who has to prove he stays a mile, and Dutch Connection, whose best form is on faster ground than he will get here.
16:10 Newmarket – Betfair Price Rush Sprint Trophy (Handicap), 6f
There is a strong temptation to go with Richard Hannon’s Nisser having put him up for a race at Windsor on Monday only for the meeting to be abandoned after three races. The form of his maiden win at that track last July could not have worked out better with two of the placed horses going on to win and his trainer expects him to make up into a smart sprint handicapper this term, with his initial mark of 85 looking generous with his burden reduced further by Tom Marquand’s 3lb claim.
But bookmakers look to have his measure, with just 3/1 on offer, and I’d rather back Andrew Balding’s DARK SHOT at four times that price (12/1 bet365). He is winless in six runs in maiden company, including at Salisbury 13 days ago (second) when in need of the run, but he’s a son of Acclamation, who improved with age, and his dam Dark Missile won the Wokingham for this stable in 2007. He looks to have inherited plenty of his parents’ speed and, having been gelded over the winter, it would be no surprise to see him bag a big sprint handicap this season and his opening mark of 81 looks exploitable.
16:30 Newbury – Al Zubarah London Gold Cup (Open Handicap), 1m2f6y
Another wide-open handicap on what is an incredibly difficult day for punters, but we should get a good run for our money from the Charlie Fellowes-trained PRINCE OF ARRAN, who is temptingly-priced at 12/1 with Ladbrokes (I just missed out on Betfair’s 14/1). There are dangers wherever you look with horses from all the top stables present and it usually takes a future Group performer to win it – the likes of Al Kazeem and Time Test have been victorious – but the selection has really taken off since being fitted with a visor, winning his last two starts at Kempton without being seriously challenged. The latest of those in early April came off a mark of 80 and, while raised to 84 since, I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t end up being rated in the high 90s. His up-and-coming trainer said as much this week and he also confirmed that the gelding had produced his best ever piece of work last Friday. He must go close.
Fancy some free bets? Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the above races with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race being shown live on Channel 4.
Newbury 2.45, Carnachy @ 4/1 bet365
Newmarket 3.00, Wolfcatcher (NB) @ 9/2 Hills
Newbury 3.20, Dhahmaan each-way @ 10/1 bet365
Newmarket 3.35, Thikriyaat @ 6/4 bet365
Newbury 3.55, Kodi Bear @ 9/2 bet365
Newmarket 4.10, Dark Shot @ 12/1 bet365
Newbury 4.30, Prince Of Arran (NAP) @ 12/1 Ladbrokes