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Friday was another blank day with Northern Express getting the closest when finishing a running on second. The rest of the selections were well below what was expected, but I think a couple of them need to be dropped in trip to see them in a better light (Maylandsea and Knightswood).
COUNT D'ORSAY has been a horse I have been monitoring for a little while, and I think he is due to win a decent race anytime soon, whether it's this race or something more local to his Yorkshire base I'm not sure, but at the odds on offer, I think he is worth a small go in this ultra-competitive sprint handicap.
Ideally, he would like soft ground, which is something he shouldn't be getting unless the weather forecast is totally wrong and we get a monsoon on rain arriving to Ascot. However, he is still capable of running a good race on faster ground and I think he is running extremely well at the minute and is running himself into form. He ran a blinder to finish third at Chester behind Copper Knight when you consider the starting position he had and the ground he had to make up. Being held up at the rear at Chester is far from ideal so the fact he finished as close as he did proves what kind of form he is in. I think he would've been in the top two in his most recent start at Newcastle if he had a clear run. He was denied a clear run when starting to hit top gear, so his final position of 6th/14 can be looked past as it wasn't a true showing of the performance he was about to put in.
One of the main market fancies Mountain Peak is drawn close to Count D'Orsay, and he is a horse who goes forward, so effectively he should be able to follow one of the correct horses into the race, and he can pounce late, if good enough.
A horse who is yet to get the breaks, but is a horse with potential is MUTASAABEQ for the Charles Hills team. I tipped him up at Epsom last time out where I thought Jim Crowley gave him a poor ride, which I stand by, but apparently, he lost one or two rear shoes which didn't help him handle the track, so with that being said he ran a pretty solid race back in third. He was closing on the second horse, Modern News, who he reopposes today, and with a clear run, I can see him reversing the form with that horse. Jim Crowley gave him a stinker of a ride the time before at Ascot, where he got him a run far too late in the race, as he tried to overcomplicate matters, and with a clear run that day he would've won with ease. Hopefully, he doesn't mess around today and makes it nice and simple.
I don't think this is a strong Group 2, with most of them being around this level and maybe worse. My Oberon doesn't look the same horse of old, who was a proper Group 2 animal, bordering Group 1 level, as he just managed to win on the line last time at Windsor, beating Modern News. If he bounced back to form, he would be a significant danger, but I'm not sure that will be the case. Chindit will be another who will have a good go in this, but I think he is susceptible to an improver and I think Mutasaabeq is that.
I've mentioned Modern News a couple of times, and though he has done little wrong so far this season, I think he is a hype horse who isn't amazing. He will more than likely be a relatively short price or be backed in, and I hope he is as it will drive up the odds of the rest in the race.
I'm not Jamie Spencer's biggest fan, so there is a strong possibility I will be kicking myself when I back ARTORIUS, but the claims of this horse are there for all to see. Jamie probably went for him too late last time at Royal Ascot in the race eventually won by Naval Crown, with his stablemate Creative Force back in second. It took what appeared to be a lifetime for Jamie to get the gaps on Artorius in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, but it was still a very good effort.
Newmarket is similar to Ascot in the way that the track is stiff, so the extra stamina he seems to have over this trip should see him in good stead with him more than likely coming from off the pace like he always does in his races in Australia.
The fact he has remained in the UK for this race speaks volumes of what a strong chance his connections think he has. He has stayed over since Royal Ascot, which was three weeks ago, so they firmly believe they can plunder a big prize pot before getting on the plane back to Australia.
Perfect Power is the correct market favourite, but against his elders, I think he is worth taking on this time. If he wins, then he's clearly the best sprinter in the country, but he has to prove that he is as good as the older horses. I don't think the older horses are incredibly good, so I can see why he is a clear favourite, but at the odds, I think the Australian fancy is a decent alternative.
Similar to Count D'Orsay who is also a selection for today, YOUNG FIRE would appreciate soft ground, but is a horse who is in good form and does handle a quicker surface.
I tipped this lad up last week at Haydock where Danny Tudhope gave him a terrible ride. Today's race doesn't look ideal for him, especially with him carrying 10st 2lbs, but connections must clearly feel he is capable of running a big race with a quick turnaround and the ground being as it is, with no forecast rain for the week, so they knew what they were getting.
I'm giving him a chance solely based on the odds he currently is, as I think he is worth a risk at 7/1 – 8/1. This will be a big performance if he could get it done, but the race should be run to suit with Isla Kai likely to set the pace, but horses like Challet and Blenheim Boy could pressure the leader, making him set a good tempo for a closer to come and nab them in the finish, which would suit Young Fire.
DANNI CALIFORNIA could still be ahead of his handicap mark of 78 despite not winning last time out off a mark of 74. She won by 5L, which could have been any amount she wanted at Wetherby the time before last, which was over 14f and that looked a big improvement on what we had seen previously from this horse, showing that stamina is what she wants. For some reason, they dropped her back in trip to 12f at Thirsk, where it clearly didn't suit and the manner in which she powered through the line to get second and lose by a neck suggested she needs a real test of stamina to be seen to best effect.
This won't be easy now she has to carry an extra 4lbs from her latest start, but I get the impression she could be well handicapped over this new trip of 2m. She just looks like a horse crying out for this kind of trip, and I think York could play to her strengths, with it being a galloping track. I thought she would be the clear favourite in this, so the fact she isn't makes her a decent bet in this.
With Andrew Balding's recent good form in this race over the last couple of years, I will be taking a chance on ACHELOIS to return to form. If she runs like she did last time at Ayr in a Class 1 Listed Fillies' race, she might as well not make the journey up from Kingsclere as she will have no chance, but based on her form from the previous start, she will have a nice EW chance at a decent EW price.
I just think something was amiss last time out at Ayr, whether she was in season or it was just an off day, as blaming the soft ground shouldn't be the thing people should be pointing their fingers at, as she has good form on testing ground previously. Therefore, I think she is worth another shot at a decent race, as the run was too bad to be true.
The run at Epsom on seasonal reappearance was a very encouraging effort, finishing runner-up to a course specialist in Soto Sizzler, who has done little wrong in franking the form, with some good efforts in tough races since. The horses in behind the front two have also run well since, so that looks like a respectable piece of form to trust. This filly is still a 4yo, who was looking progressive until last time out, and I think there is still more to come. This race is tough, and a mark of 98 makes it even tougher, but Harry Davies is in the saddle and takes off a very handy 5lbs, meaning she is on the same mark as she was when nearly winning at Epsom in April.
You're going to need luck in running to win this, but horses at decent figure prices have won this race a lot in recent years, so I wouldn't be in a rush backing the horses towards the head of the market even though their claims are there for all to see.