No past winners to go on ahead of this mile or so Apprentice handicap, but a closely fought contest seems assured on the switchback track that invariably attracts a decent mid-week crowd. Read on for our in depth analysis ahead of the 5.00pm at Brighton this afternoon.
IN SUMMARY: Only Papou Tony and BUZZ LIGHTYERE can boast recent winning form in this line-up and it’s the latter who appeals most. Since moving to the Philip Hide stable, this four-year-old has been raced nearly exclusively at today’s course, with five of his seven runs coming at Brighton and form figures of 13271. He clearly enjoys this specialist track and, with a touch more improvement expected, he is taken to come out on top in the last.
2 PAPOU TONY – Two wins earlier in the season for George Baker’s four-year-old son of Raven’s Pass, but both were at Kempton on the All Weather and he is yet to prove that he is as effective on the turf. Put up an extra 5lbs after his last win, he ran well enough when third back at Kempton. However, he was a well beaten last of 11 at Newbury on the grass last time and seems to have plenty to prove for now.
3 BUZZ LIGHTYERE – The only last time out winner in the seven horse line-up after scoring by a neck over course and distance with 2 3/4 lengths back to the third. He has been given an added 4lbs by the handicapper which seems harsh enough, but he has proved that he likes it here. After that win jockey Liam Keniry said, “Philip [Hide, trainer] really fancied Buzz Lightyere beforehand and was right. He travelled well, got a good position and saw his race out, so hopefully there will be more to come” . He does look like a serious player again here with any further improvement.
4 WITH APPROVAL – A small run of placed efforts came to a very abrupt end last time out when Laura Mongan’s five-year-old gelding finished last of seven here over seven furlongs, beaten over five lengths at the line. Three wins from 33 starts (but none in 12 now), for a run stretching back to this time last year at this track. However, he is undoubtedly well handicapped if they can get him back to his best.
5 ROCK ICON – Trainer Jo Hughes is hardly on fire, with no winners from eight runners in the last two weeks while the four-year-old is having his first run of the season after more than eight months off. He officially moved from Patrick Chamings to his new yard in July, but he has only had the nine starts and could have more to offer. Last time out he finished a 13 length eighth at Wolverhampton and he will need to do better than that, although a first-time hood has to be seen as interesting and he may well do better than his odds suggest.
7 PLAY THE BLUES – One win from 37 starts now and that was in May 2015 at Lingfield on the All Weather track. She recently moved from Henry Tett to Roger Ingram and promptly finished 11th of 12 to Buzz Lightyere here – beaten 34 lengths – and she actually meets her conqueror on worse terms here. She has little, if any, chance from out of the handicap.
1 STORMBOUND – Two wins from five starts plus two second spots and a third for Paul Cole’s eight-year-old gelding who clearly likes it around here, and that may well be the deciding factor. Last time out he was a below par fourth at Bath on rattling fast ground and he won’t want it too slow this afternoon either. However, if the rain stops, as expected, then he has an outstanding chance on his form around here. In addition, as he has won off of 5lbs higher in the past there is plenty to like about his chances. The stable are performing well, with two winners from seven runners in the last two weeks (29%) which can only be a bonus.
6 ALKETIOS – Two fourth places in a row now for Chris Gordon’s charge, but a tongue tie is added today, presumably to assist his breathing. He hasn’t won for almost two years now and, after 13 unsuccessful starts, he has dropped to a rating of 56, 6lbs lower than his last victory. He has every chance here if the tongue tie works, but the stable are going through a quiet patch with no recent runners which has to be a concern.