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I drew a blank day on Thursday, which is always frustrating but I did pull out some outsiders in a couple of the races, and they ran okay, nothing more to be said really. I was very disappointed in Bodorgan who ran a stinker, I did think the ground was going to be slower than it was as they did water the track and they were expecting some rain, which didn't seem to fall, and I did think he would enjoy good to soft ground, so that might be the reason for the poor run.
Newmarket 1:50 – Knockbrex 12/1 (0.5pt EW Bet365 4pl)
A leap of faith is required for backing Knockbrex as his run at Royal Ascot stunk the place out, under a very strange ride by Frankie Dettori. However, this race has been dominated in the last ten years by Charlie's dad, Mark, so to see Knockbrex bounce back to form isn't out of the question.
Mark Johnston won this race four times on the bounce between 2013 and 2016 and then a further two times in 2018 and 2020, so this race is pretty much his race. This is Charlie's first proper season as being the sole name on the licence, but I'm sure he'd want to win this race and carry on the good form his dad showed. He has a couple of runners in this race today but I think the best chance of his is Knockbrex, hence why I've put him up. This horse was progressing nicely until getting a strange ride by Frankie on his last ever ride at Royal Ascot. Frankie decided to ride him over a Gosden horse, so clearly was told good things about him, and the horse was strong for most of the day until close to the off where he was weak in the market and Frankie went off like the clappers on him and he had no chance going at the pace he did, and folded when turning for home which was to be expected under such suicide tactics.
However, just because he had one bad run doesn't mean you can completely write him off, which is what many would do, and as a result, we're getting some decent odds about him which I'm happy to take. We all know how Johnston horses like to run from the front and are generally tough to pass, and this horse is a front runner, has stall 1 which is ideal for Jason Hart to break well and grab the rail and hopefully be tough to pass. This race does have other pace angles in the race, so I don't expect it to be an easy lead, but if he can get to the front I think and he doesn't go a frantic gallop I think we can see a return to form which he showed before his Ascot run. He was running a big race over 12f at York, and had all of the horses off the bridle, but didn't quite last the race out. He was 2nd to Gregory at Haydock and he beat Perfuse on seasonal reappearance who then went on to record an RPR of 101 and finish 5th/19 at Royal Ascot when 4/1F.
Newmarket 3:00 – Torcello 15/2 (1pt EW Bet365)
Guessing the weather didn't work out on Thursday, so fingers crossed it plays in my favour for Friday as once again we're expecting rain at Newmarket just before racing starts, and by the time of 3pm the rain should be falling at Newmarket and hopefully changing the going, and if it does then Torcello is a big player in the Bet365 Trophy.
This horse has the form to get involved in this race, where I believe a lot of horses are reaching the ceiling of their handicap marks, whereas Torcello looks to be on a decent enough mark of 89, even though he hasn't won on a mark this high before, he has won off 88 and ran extremely well on the Rowley course off 87 and the form looks rock-solid.
HMS President won that race at Newmarket, he then finished 2nd at Royal Ascot. The runner-up won on his next start and ran well in the Northumberland Plate a couple of weekends ago. Third was Geremia who was a winning selection for me earlier this week, as well as many more in behind who have run big races in defeat. The thing about Torcello is that he is a front-runner, which I do believe is a positive tactic for Newmarket, but he is such a game horse and when he looks beaten, he keeps plugging away and finding extra. If the rain doesn't come he won't run, so with that in mind, he is a good EW bet as if it does rain he is a big player and if it doesn't, he won't run and money is returned.
Newmarket 3:35 – Remarquee 9/2 (2pt Bet365)
With some rain expected to land at Newmarket, I think it will be a benefit to Remarquee who looks a strong alternative to the short-priced favourite, Via Sistina.
The Ralph Beckett-trained horse has always had plenty of ability about her, but the lack of experience and quirkiness has been there for all to see. However, I think it is a matter of time before she lands a big prize, and think she has a great chance of winning the Falmouth today. She handles soft ground, hence why I'm praying rain does land at Newmarket as it clearly enhances her chances, but if not, she ran well on faster ground at Royal Ascot last time out when finishing 2nd to the Irish Guineas winner, Tahiyra who was also runner-up in the UK Guineas. That rates as good form, and probably the best form to take on the favourite with.
The favourite has been very impressive on her last two starts, showing a high cruising speed, so should be fine with the drop to a mile, but has she really beaten much? I don't think she's beaten a Group 1 level filly yet, even though she did thrash Al Hasn who then beat Nashwa, but the rest aren't particularly outstanding horses as the runner-up in Ireland would suggest, she was 108 rated. Remarquee is 111 rated and is getting 9lbs from Via Sistina, who is rated 116 rated, so based on that the favourite will have to improve again to beat my selection if Remarquee runs to form, which I believe she will considering this is a race that Ralph Beckett won last year with a 3yo, Prosperous Voyage, who races in this today.
Ascot 5:10 – Popmaster 10/3 (2pt WilliamHill)
I've been wanting to back Popmaster since watching him finish second to a winning selection of mine, Flying Secret a couple of weeks ago at Newbury.
This horse is a proper Ascot horse, his best form has come at today's track, and it just seems to bring out improvement in him, and though he has run well on other tracks, this is the place he saves his best performances for. That statement might sound ludicrous as he has only won once at Ascot, but three of his four highest RPRs have come at Ascot, which includes a second in the 2022 Wokingham behind Rohaan.
I'm fairly confident that if he produces a similar level of performance as to his last run at Newbury he'll be tough to beat today. That was over 7f, he was staying on strongly, but I think a stiff 6f is what he is prefers. He is running off a mark of 88 with Billy Loughnane taking off 3lbs from his original rating of 91, and that maeks him the best handicapped horse in the race, without question. He has won off 95, finished as runner-up off 98 twice, was 4th/9 in a Class 2 handicap here last year off a mark of 100 just a length behind the winner.
The ground isn't a concern, unless it's bottomless ground, where I'd imagine he might be pulled out. He handles good to firm and good to soft, so as long as it's within that range, which is should be unless the heavens completey open, he'll still be tough to beat.
Newmarket - 1:50 pm
12/1 @ Bet365
Newmarket - 3:00 pm
15/2 @ Bet365
Newmarket - 3:35 pm
9/2 @ Bet365
Ascot - 5:10 pm