3.10pm Newbury – Starlight Handicap (Class Two) – 6f 8yds
Last season this race was won by Clear Spring (20/1) at odds of 11/2 for trainer John Spearing and as he is running again this season, he seems like a pretty sensible starting point. Since taking this race off a handicap mark of 100 he went off the boil and despite ten more visits to the track, the best he managed was a second at Goodwood in a Class Three handicap last October. The gelding is now an eight-year-old so it seems fair to suggest that we can’t really be expecting any improvement, but he is rated three pounds lower this year than last which in theory gives him a decent enough chance of a repeat performance. He has also had a run to put him straight when a 33/1 shot and tenth of sixteen at Newmarket, and if he starts at a decent price could well run in to a place at least.
Meanwhile, trainer George Baker has brought Harry Hurricane (11/1 Each Way) along nice and slowly, building up his fitness ahead of this afternoon’s target where he looks to have good each way chances. So far his two career victories have been at Wolverhampton but he seems equally at home on the grass and ran his best race for some time when second at Goodwood last time out, only beaten a length by Marmalady who received close to a stone from our selection. A bit outpaced at the death that day, he should find the sixth furlong here m re to his liking, and off the same mark with Steve Drowne back in the saddle. he must have place prospects as the barest minimum.
If you are looking for an in form option then Milton Bradley’s Englishman (5/1) has to top the list after winning his last two races at Windsor and Newmarket, and he would get in here carrying a six-pound penalty if they decide to pre-empt the handicapper’s unwanted attentions. We can’t even guess what Milton has done to improve him so quickly and dramatically but it is a testament to his skills with this Charlie Hills “cast off”, and he looked to have any amount in hand last time out, and if he shows up here fit and well he will take an awful lot of beating.
Four-year-old gelding Francisco (12/1) sits nearer the bottom than the top of the weights for the Hannon yard, and is stepping up in class but you never know if they are capable until they try. Two wins, a second and a fourth (first time out) from just the four races makes impressive reading even if they were at lower grades, and he has any amount of room to improve further this season. A son of Paco Boy they will know all the family traits, though the fact that he hasn’t been seen since last June does suggest he has had his problems, and anyone backing him here will have to take his fitness after nearly a year off the track on trust.
With new management at Godolphin we fully expect a few of the lesser lights to shine more brightly in 2016 and Kickboxer (14/1) could well be one of them after a truncated campaign last season. It is pretty unusual for them to keep hold of a handicapper unless they are convinced he or she can win races, though on last year’s efforts you would have to question his abilities. A third to Mukhmal was his best run of three, and he will; need to do better than that to get involved today, but they do pull off the odd miracle and he may yet put in a bold showing if they have sorted out any issues.
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