One of the most competitive handicaps on a tricky card and no previous runnings of this race, but excellent price money from Newmarket racecourse with a £50,000 pot and 13 runners line up for a number of top yards.
Mark Johnston continues to fire in the winners as always and has a very serious contender here in Haley Bop (9/1 Each Way) who thoroughly deserves her place in this line up. A tough as teak daughter of Dream Ahead, she has already had eleven races this season, winning two of them and placing in three others with a Chester win and an Ayr second in her last two starts. Put up a pound despite being beaten two and a quarter lengths last time, she may well have hit the front too soon that day before idling and being gathered in by the winner and if Joe Fanning can hang on to her a little longer here we could see a very different result and she looks the value bet of the race.
Luca Cumani’s Farandine (11/2) also caught the eye and she will arrive here a lot fresher than most after just the one run all season. Three runs as a juvenile saw a second and a third to start with followed by the obligatory maiden win here at Newmarket over seven furlongs in October after which she was put away for the winter to mature and strengthen. For reasons unknown she wasn’t seen for close to a year before reappearing at Chelmsford when she hit a bit of a flat spot before running on again to be beaten less than two lengths at the line. Genius as Luca is there is no substitute for race fitness, and it seems obvious to suggest that she ought to strip fitter now after her first race in 11 months, and if that is the case then she has to be a serious danger to all off a handicap mark just a single pound higher.
Meanwhile, trainer Ralph Beckett is hitting a nineteen percent strike rate at present but will hope to improve that slightly with the bang in form Crowning Glory (7/1) who is looking for her hat trick here and her fourth victory of the 2016 season. Her last two wins at Epsom and Sandown have both seen her hard ridden and running on late so the faster they go early today the more it will play in to her hands, but she has been put up another five pounds for her last win and will need to improve again to carry that to the front in this much better race.
Lastly, we have long held the view that horses who ran badly when a yard was out of form are well worth looking at in handicaps later in the season and Roger Varian’s Fourth Way (11/1) sort of fits the bill. The yard haven’t had the best of times which may explain the three-year-old’s absence since April, though why she only finished eighth of ten may be down to being aimed too high. As a juvenile she picked up a Yarmouth maiden before finishing third in the Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury, before being put away for the winter. With classic hopes on their mind they reintroduced her in the Nell Gwyn Stakes when she finished eighth behind Nathra, beaten nearly five lengths at the line – and hasn’t been seen since. The move in to handicap class looks like they have acknowledged that she perhaps is not as good as they once hoped, but she may well be up to Listed class in which case a rating of 93 could be seen as generous and if she is fit enough to do herself justice she should go well.
The first horse to originally jump out at us was the William Haggas trained Carenot (Non Runner – 9.15am Saturday) who has sneaked in near the bottom of the weights and will be ridden by Nicky Mackay. After two second places as a juvenile she was put away for the winter to mature and strengthen which quickly reaped dividends as she returned to take her maiden at Beverley before they added a visor for a very easy three length success at Salisbury over this mile in a Class Five handicap despite possibly hitting the front a bit too soon. She has been put up seven pounds for that win and is upped in class considerably here, but the visor is replaced by blinkers and she may well have room for a lot more improvement and make it three in a row.