Close to £13,000 on offer for the winner of this valuable handicap and not far short of a thousand for fourth, so plenty to play for this afternoon with the good to soft going possibly making this more of a test of stamina than some would prefer. See our horse by horse race preview plus selection for the 4.35pm at Haydock.
IN SUMMARY: Agent Murphy looks interesting despite top weight, but arrives with plenty to prove and the more sensible option has to be David O’Meara’s TAWDEEA who has Danny Tudhope back in the saddle today. That may well make all the difference as they look to get him to produce near to his best which would be more than enough to win this.
1 AGENT MURPHY – Brian Meehan has already won close to £200,000 with the son of Cape Cross who peaked with a second to Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger two years ago, albeit 11 lengths away from the winner and giving that rival 11 pounds. After a poor run behind Flying Officer on Champions Day he disappeared for 18 months until reappearing at Doha when fourth in a Listed race, picking up over £40,000 in the process. However, he hasn’t been the same in two runs since, with a sixth to Second Step in Listed class at Windsor last time out. He could be fully race fit now for the first time this season and dropped into handicap class has to be of some interest at the very least.
2 GALAPIAT – The ex-Andre Fabre colt won his first two starts of the season at Leicester and Epsom off handicap marks of 85 and 96, but was then put up into the hundreds and has found life much more difficult in four races since. Last time out he finished over 14 lengths behind winner Gawdawpalin at Ascot at the end of July and may do better returning from a break. He is, however, still rated 102 and may need to come down a few pounds before he wins again. Trainer Mark Johnston is ticking over with an 11% strike rate so he cannot be written off, but others do seem to hold better credentials here.
3 PERCY STREET – His last outing on the flat was for trainer Karl Burke, though he has had six runs over hurdles, including a win at Taunton for new trainer Nicky Henderson who gives him another spin on the flat this afternoon. Despite his reputation as a National Hunt expert, Nicky is more than capable on the flat, especially with the stayers. That said, this is his first run in over five months and it would be asking a lot to win first time out after a gelding operation. A market watch may well be the best guide here.
4 TAWDEEA – David O’Meara’s five-year-old son of Intikhab blotted his copybook last time out at Ascot when sixth to Gawdawpalin; he almost refused to race at the start before eventually running on through beaten horses when the race was pretty much over. He has won four of his 22 starts at Hamilton, Newcastle, here at Haydock over this course and distance and, most recently, at Leicester in October off a rating four pounds higher than he has today. He clearly has the ability when he deems to bother to use it and if anyone can bring out the best in him then Danny Tudhope is your man. As the horse will have been extensively educated at home since, it seems unlikely that will happen again today.
5 AZARI – A winner last time out and the only one in this field after Tom Dascombe’s gelding took a Class 3 handicap over this course and distance by the minimum distance of a nose from Zubayr, with the third a couple of lengths back. Up four pounds for that win he won’t find this quite as easy, but he will be even better suited by a fast run race. With plenty of possible pace he may well be running on fast and late as others start to tire.
6 NIBLAWI – Seems to be at his best in the autumn with wins at Bath and Redcar last September. That said, both were over a mile and a quarter and he is yet to score at this sort of trip after four attempts, although he has finished fourth or better on each occasion. His last two runs have seen him sent to Ascot where he has finished second and fourth, but he should be spot on now after three runs for the season. If Paul Hanagan can keep him closer to the leaders early on today then he may well be able to pounce late on after being left on the same rating following his good fourth to Great Hall.
7 MARMAJUKE BAY – Mark Usher’s four-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade may be the one who adds the pace to the race after he made all the running to win here in June. He has been covered up in two races since but that hasn’t really worked as well, with a six-and-a-half length seventh at Nottingham when trued over half a mile further. That said, if Steve Drowne is allowed to let him bowl along here he could well prove a lot harder to catch dropped a pound after his last race.
8 SENNOCKIAN STAR – You can never completely dismiss a Mark Johnston horse, but the seven-year-old gelding has a lot to find and hasn’t won in 14 starts now stretching back to February. His last three wins have all been on the all-weather over this trip, but he has yet to win over further than ten furlongs on turf and it takes a little imagination to make a case for him today. However, he has won off of 19 pounds higher in the past and cannot be ignored totally off joint bottom weight today.