Three winning favourites in the last ten renewals suggests this is a profitable race for punters and it will be interesting to see if that run continues this afternoon. Holiday Magic (6/1) headed the early betting for trainer Michael Easterby with the useful Nathan Evans taking three pounds off the six-year-old gelding’s back. After rounding off 2016 with wins at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford he started 2017 in similar form with an easy win over seven furlongs at Southwell which saw him put up another six pounds which seemed a little harsh. Since then he has run twice with a fourth to Flaming Spear at Newcastle when only beaten a length over seven furlongs before being caught close home again over the same course and distance to go under by a head to Suzi’s Connoisseur after being put up yet another two pounds. This mile plus could well be stretching his stamina to the very limits in a field of this class but from the two stall he seems sure to go well regardless, and could well run in to a place if getting the breaks when needed.
With the likeable Oisin Murphy riding as well as ever with seven wins from his last thirty-one starts for a 23% strike rate in the last two weeks and better still, a level stakes profit of close to twenty points it may be worth a bet on the Stuart Williams runner Examiner (13/2 Each Way). Now a six-year-old, the son of Excellent Art was last seen over one mile one and a half furlongs here on Boxing Day when a decent enough fifth to Forceful Appeal in a similar standard contest off a rating of 93 when perhaps left with too much to do by Adam Beschizza, and finishing well when the race was over. Dropped a pound for that he has won over this trip at Epsom in this class back in June last year and with three wins so far on the all-weather there is a lot to like about his chances with a decent enough draw in the five stall.
Zero winners from twenty-five runners in fourteen days is not a stat to get all excited about in any race preview, yet Richard Fahey’s horses have achieved exactly that which will be of some concern to the supporters of Nimr (5/1) here. A four-year-old son of Shamardal owned by Al Shaqab Racing, he did win last time out here at Wolverhampton over seven furlongs, running on strongly to beat Russian Soul by half a length in a Class Three handicap off a rating of 90 under Tony Hamilton. Up four pounds for that run in February his jockey told us after the race “They went no gallop at Newcastle last time and Nimr took a keen hold but that was more like it. He’s lightly raced and could be a decent horse one day” suggesting he may well have a bit more to offer in time and making him of interest this afternoon, if only his stable were in among the winners to give that extra encouragement.
Now Pactolus (8/1) shows up here he has to be of interest (again for Stuart Williams) with his fine record at this track of two wins from three starts, as well as eight wins from twenty-three starts on the all-weather for a respectable 35% strike rate. Sadly, none have been over this trip which is the only negative from the figures, but has won over both shorter and further so no real issues there. Last time out he ran over a furlong further here to score by half a length from Wintertude in similar company running on strongly under Aaron Jones who is good value for his three pounds claim, and although put up another three pounds for that he could well be improving enough to shrug that off though the twelve stall hardly aids his chances.
To round things off the David O’Meara horses can never be ignored, especially in handicaps and with Danny Tudhope already booked to ride Steel Train (16/1), the six-year-old has to have some kind of each way chance with the trip perhaps his biggest enemy. Five wins so far have been achieved at Le Lion D’Angers, Marseille Borely, Thirsk, Doncaster, and Newcastle, but none over more than a mile with the vast majority over seven furlongs, making this trip a negative. There is enough stamina in his pedigree to give his connections some hope with a slow run race just what they need to allow him to sue his turn of foot, but in this case even the O’Meara yard may find it impossible to get a win out of him over this trip, though a place at a big price is not the impossibility it seems at first glance.