What are the best bets at York on Thursday?
The York Dante meeting continues on the Knavesmire this afternoon and here are my thoughts on this afternoon’s four Channel 4-televised races.
14:10 Betfred ‘Supports Jack Berry House’ Handicap, 5f
He’s hardly an original choice given his position at the head of the market, but I do think BRANDO is a sprinter to follow and could be a cut above today’s rivals. Kevin Ryan’s charge ran a couple of excellent races in defeat at this track as a juvenile before going on to win twice last season, but the son of Pivotal looked better again when sluicing home on his reappearance at the Newmarket Craven meeting under today’s pilot Jamie Spencer. The handicapper has put him up 9lb for that three and a quarter length success, which is only fair, and he looks well up to defying his revised mark before being tried in Listed company or better. A little juice in the ground seems to suit him so the recent rain, which has turned the going to ‘good’, is just what he needs. Take bet365’s 6/1 as he will likely go off shorter and it’s ‘best odds guaranteed’ besides.
Royal Birth has been running well on the all-weather and rates a danger along with top weight Toofi, who might need his first run back, while Jamie Osborne’s Shamshon could go well at a price (18/1 Paddy Power) with Frankie Dettori booked.
Sky Bet are refunding losing stakes on the race as a free bet (up to £25) if the favourite (most likely Brando) wins.
14:40 Betfred Middleton Stakes (Fillies’ Group 2), 1m2f88y
John Gosden landed a double on the Knavesmire on Wednesday, continuing his good start to the season, and he can be on the mark here too with JOURNEY. She is the top-rated runner in the field courtesy of her second in a Group 1 at Ascot’s Champions’ Day last October (1m4f, good to soft), when she was just denied by St Leger winner Simple Verse, and that run also proved her versatility over the ground. She clearly stays 1m4f but seems just as effective over this shorter trip and I’d expect Frankie Dettori to give her a positive ride to make use of her stamina.
The market has been a solid recent guide with the last nine winners all returned at 9/2 or shorter, including five winning favourites, so it could pay not to look past the selection and her two closest market rivals, Beautiful Romance and Lady Of Dubai – BetVictor go 2/1, 4/1 and 9/2 on the trio respectively. Of that pair, Lady Of Dubai may given her most to do. Trained by Luca Cumani at the time of finishing third in last season’s Oaks, she has joined Roger Varian for 2016 and could do even better with another year on her back. Her new stable has made a solid start to the season.
Betfred Dante Stakes (Group 2), 1m2f88y
A decent turnout of ten for this recognised Derby trial and they include the current second favourite for the big Epsom race in June, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained MIDTERM. He’s been out in as 13/8 favourite (Sky Bet) for this latest test of his Classic credentials and I expect him to come through it with flying colours. Wins at Newbury (his sole start last season) and Sandown on his reappearance were impressive enough and the latest looks a solid piece of evidence; Midterm’s winning time was more than respectable when compared to the Esher Cup, run over two furlongs less on the same card, and there was a gap of eight lengths behind runner-up Algometer to third-placed High Grounds, who is highly regarded.
But it’s how he performs in this latest trial that is crucial to his chances of going on to Classic glory – he’s a best-priced 10/3 with Betway to do just that! Thirty years ago Shahrastani became the last Sandown trial winner to win the Derby, taking the Dante end route, and before him the ill-fated Shergar went in from Sandown to win the Chester Vase before recording the longest winning margin of victory (ten lengths) in Derby history. Both those horses were, like Midterm, were Stoute-trained and there’s another pointer from history as the last horse to win for Khalid Abdullah (Midterm’s owner) and Stoute on his debut was Derby and Arc winner Workforce. Just saying.
Of the rest, you have to respect the John Gosden-trained pair of Wings Of Desire and Foundation with the former just preferred, but a bigger danger may be Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville, the mount of Ryan Moore.
15:45 Betfred TV Hambleton Stakes (Listed Handicap), 1m
An impossible-looking handicap but if past results are anything to go by it could pay to concentrate on the classier types who have shown a liking for the track – since 2005 horses rated 104-plus have yielded 36% of winners (four) despite making up just 18% of the runners, while five of the last 11 winners had scored at York previously. Only two horses fit those criteria; David O’Meara’s BIRDMAN and MASTER THE WORLD representing David Elsworth.
The former was a big improver last season, winning five times, and ran a cracking fourth in the Lincoln on his reappearance. You can ignore his unplaced effort on his latest start at Haydock as he was nearly brought down after a very unlucky passage through the race. He has to be worth a few quid each-way at bet365’s 20/1 despite some reservations about his draw in stall one right against the rail, but the bigger bet is going on the Elsworth runner at 14/1 with the same firm. A winner over track and trip at the 2014 Ebor meeting, he was just touched off in last season’s 34-runner Cambridgeshire before going on to finish third in another big-field handicap on Champions’ Day at Ascot. His reappearance fifth at Newmarket will have put him spot on for this and the booking of Silvestre De Sousa takes the eye – the Brazilian was on board in the Cambridgeshire and has a 25% strike rate on all the stable runners for a £1 level-stakes profit of £65.46.
Of the rest, you have to respect Godolphin’s 105-rated Always Smile with his trainer Saeed bin Suroor amongst the winners of late, while Express Himself will surely win one of these sooner rather than later. The problem with him is that he often misses the kick and has to be delivered late, so his price of 8/1 is no bargain given that he will need plenty of luck in running.
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 shown live on Channel 4.