No history to go on for this race so all we can say for starters is that it seems a pretty normal 0-100 handicap for four-year-olds and their elders so there is plenty of form to go on through we still have the odd lightly raced improver hiding away. Starting with the penalised runners i.e. those who are carrying a penalty before they can be re handicapped and the eye was instantly drawn to the Jamie Osborne trained Raising Sand (6/1) with the booking of Timmy Murphy making us wonder if there could be a potential gamble on the way. An ex jump jockey as a trainer and an ex jump jockey as a rider in a flat race must be a fairly rare combination but more importantly the horse is in good form having scored by three-quarters or a length in a Class Three Conditions Stakes over this trip at Ascot at the end of last month. Truth is we are not overly convinced that he will actually be put up as much as his six pounds penalty for that but this is a suitable race with plenty of prize money as we suspect he will run really well regardless of his place in the betting market.
His price is far too skinny in the circumstances and we thing the James Eustace trained Ice Slice (20/1 Each Way) is the value call at this price after winning five races already this season at Brighton (twice) Nottingham Haydock and Chester. He has been steadily rising in the handicap as you would expect from 72 for his first win all the way up to 91 for the last, but he gets his ground and trip again this afternoon and although perhaps a fraction high in the weights, if we forgive him his last run (we all have a bad day) he arrives here with a very decent chance of a place at the very least and hopefully another victory.
When it comes to competitive handicaps we would never dream of writing a race preview without a mention at least for any David O’Meara runner with his excellent record at placing horses to the very best affect. Sadly for us he has more than one entry at the early stage but hopefully he will rely on Fort Bastion (16/1) who looks about the best weighted in the circumstances. Now a seven-year-old, the son of Lawman has won four of his 49 career starts which fails to set the pulse rating, but he has carried much higher ratings to victory in the past which is the main thing for now. His last victory was admittedly over a year ago now (May 2015 to be precise), but he has been rated as high as 106 in the past and won handicaps off of 91 and 95 and gets in here rated 90 by the dreaded handicapper. Last time out he finished a running on eighth at Haydock beaten five lengths at the line but was third the race before in similar company and if they let him take his chances he looks to have some decent each way possibilities.
We know that Jeremy Noseda expected a decent season from Keystroke (9/1) and it all started well enough when the four-year-old son of top sire Pivotal won the Lincoln trial at Wolverhampton back in March but he hasn’t looked the same horse since. A fourteen length twelfth at Doncaster in the Spring Mile was put down to the softer going but he did little better when last seen at Ayr after a lay-off when sent off the 4/1 favourite and fading in to tenth after being briefly short of room when looking for a run. Dropped a total of two pounds after both those losses, it appears the handicappers don’t believe those runs any more than we do and if he can be brought back to his peak he would have every chance of success this afternoon for his Newmarket handler.
Meanwhile, Kevin Ryan’s Big Time (8/1) has been well supported in the early markets and arrives with a pretty decent chance despite an extra three pounds here after being beaten three-quarters of a length by Certificate at Goodwood at the end of August. Although he has won over this mile his best recent form has been over seven furlongs which is a concern but with Kevin Stott on board he will run a big race though a place may be the best he can realistically muster.