Race Time: 1.50pm Meeting: Newmarket
Distance: 1m 4f
Full Race Name: Qipco Supporting British Racing (Handicap) (Class 2)
A prize fund of a mere £45,000 guaranteed has still attracted a really decent potential line up here but then it is 1000 Guineas day and if I had a horse, what better card can there be to get your Owners Badge and walk around mixing it the rich and famous?
From a punters perspective, good fields mean competitive races which makes winner finding that bit trickier, but the prices so much better when you do, and we plan to start with top weight Fire Fighting (18/1) who will look to shrug off nine stone ten this afternoon. Adam Kirby rides for trainer Mark Johnston who is in amongst the winners again in the last week or so, and thee can be no question mark over the fitness of the four year old who is having his ninth race of 2015. His Meydan exploits peaked with a second place behind Al Saham at this exact distance, while his last race saw him finish third at Epsom when running on over a mile and a quarter, but back to a more appropriate trip today we may at least seem him at his very best again, though whether he is the stable pick is another question entirely.
Continuing our search for a lightly raced improving sort, Brian Meehan houses a very similar option with Agent Murphy (8/1), again a four year old, but this time with only four races to his name. Wins at Bath and Sandown were followed by places at Ascot (twice), but he has plenty of room to come back even stronger this season, and as a son of Cape Cross, is most likely to do so. One season proves very little but they did manage to get him fit first time out last year so may be in a position to repeat that feat today, and as he stayed on over this trip when third on his final outing, they now know he stays and Jimmy Fortune can, if they want, ride him a bit more aggressively if needed.
Anyone who knows their trainers and lives near or in Newmarket will tell you that Don Cantillon is as shrewd as they get and a top trainer who rarely if ever gets the credit his abilities deserves. If he decides to send Barbican (40/1) here then we will be watching the market very carefully as a barometer toward his well being – 644 days off the track can’t ever be good, but at his best there is no doubt he is pretty well handicapped. Rated as highly as 111 at his peak, and already a Listed class winner, he was last seen at Ascot when a close up fourth to Bishop Roko in 2013 but gets in here off of 98, six pounds lower than last time and 13 pounds less than his best – could that be unlucky for bookmakers I wonder, and he is surely one for each way consideration?
Back to Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston again next (see Fire Fighting), and he will be hoping to squeeze even more improvement out of Watersmeet (12/1) here, though he will need to as the four year old looks to make it four wins in a row already this season – though none of those have been on the turf. He did win on grass at Haydock last season so all is not lost for his many supporters, though shrugging off a nine pound weight rise for a win at Chelmsford may not be quite as easy as we suspect his odds will suggest. To end with, David Elsworth (of Desert Orchid fame for those with long memories) plans to send Highland Castle (25/1) here, and although an outsider and rightly so, he has small each way chances. It seems fair to say that his best years are behind him at the age of seven (the horse, not the trainer!), but he has won races off of 100 and most recently over course and distance off of 89 – yet he gets in here off of 88 less Tim Clark’s five pound claim, and if they can get him back to what he is capable of, he could well get close to the frame granted luck in running.