A tough handicap to end the day for our race preview, and the starting point for our betting tips has to be which trainers target this race. Mark Johnston has won it for the last three years running with Resonant, Torchlighter and Maputo, and he enters three here. All owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, they are all big outsiders at double figure odds and none appears to have a chance on known form.
Sticking with previous winners though, Luca Cumani took this race in 2011 with Fulgar and we turn to him for our betting tip for this race with Banksea. Lightly raced, he’s had two wins, two seconds and a third from his five starts so far, with the latest win coming under today’s jockey Andrea Atzeni who has been riding well this year. Banksea’s last time out win at Pontefract was on today’s ground and over the same trip, and despite overracing early he ended up winning comfortably. He’s been hiked seven pounds for that win, following a six pound rise for his second place at Leicester, but he’s clearly a very progressive horse and we expect him to step on for the experience again. His runs at Ascot and Newmarket suggest the track should play to his strength and he looks a good value bet.
His main rival in the overnight market is Autocratic for Ryan Moor, Sir Michael Stoute and Cheveley Park Stud – a fearsome set of connections. Given a lenient mark of 78 by the handicapper, he won his handicap debut as he liked and was immediately hiked nine pounds. There is little form to work off from that race though, and he looks like the type who will progress with time. We expect his race will come a little early in his career off a mark of 87 but he’s one to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.
High Grounds, ridden by Oisin Murphy – still looking for his first winner at Newmarket this year – has been competing in some much higher class races than a number of his competitors, although has been well beaten in each. A distant 3rd in the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown was followed by an even more distant 5th in the Chester Vase behind US Army Ranger when he was never really competitive. He ran far better at Epsom in a valuable Class 2 handicap off a mark of 93 last time out and, raised two pounds, should still be competitive off this mark with more improvement likely to come. A full brother to Jacobean who was a solid 4th in the Racing Post Trophy two years ago (although he never really trained on from that), he could be one to run into a place at a good price.
Despite the poor form of the Ed Dunlop yard, it is still worth talking about Vivre Pour Vivre. He has to be a lot better than he showed last time out at Newbury when well beaten by Imperial Aviator – and five others. Prior to that, the son of Pour Moi had won both races this season over a mile and then over this trip so that was just too bad to be true. The handicapper has dropped him a pound for his run last time out and, if he can step on from his win at Leicester, he promises to be well handicapped. He probably wants more cut underfoot than he’s likely to get at Newmarket though.