With the Festival behind us and the excitement of the Lincoln and Dubai World Cup day still a week away, this promised to be a rather dull Saturday for betting purposes but in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
Sunday sees Ireland start their flat turf season at Naas with pattern races backing up the Irish Lincolnshire, though while those races will be fascinating to watch we cannot have a strong view on any of them at this stage.
Back in the UK, Kelso stages its Party in the Paddock race day live on TV and we have one value selection from there, Newbury’s Jumps Season Finale provides us another bet but we begin on the flat at Lingfield with one of three punts from the trouble Arc track.
2.35 Lingfield (Class 5 Novice Stakes) – MOFTRIS
Taking a glance at this race on paper wouldn’t fill you with joy and it certainly doesn’t look at a glance like a race you’d want to get seriously involved in, but just watch out should any good money come late Friday/early Satruday for this Moftris.
William Haggas’ Sheikh Ahmed colt, a well-related son of Ifraaj out of a Dubawi mare and bred by Godolphin, didn’t show an awful lot on debut but will clearly improve plenty and can leave that distant third of 4 at Chelmsford well behind now that he has the experience under his belt.
As the 15/8 second favourite he was expected to push the odds-on winner very close last time, perhaps even win on debut in fact, and assuming the normal rate of improvement along with the 7lbs he gets from leading form contenders Fields Of Athenry and Metatron he can get his head in front this time under James Doyle.
3.10 Lingfield (Class 3 Handicap) – INSURGENCE
The key piece of form here appears to be Sha La La La Lee’s win over the course and distance three weeks ago and while Tom Dascombe’s gelding has a chance of following up at these weights, conditions should be different this time in that he may not get quite as easy a lead.
On top of the fact that Sha La La La Lee might not get things his own way up front, either by being taken on at the head of affair or at least being obliged to go quicker given the larger field, James Fanshawe’s Insurgence will appreciate the faster run race and is now 2lbs better off with his old rival.
Like Sha La La La Lee, Insurgence is a four-year-old with plenty of improvement still to come so with conditions set to suit him best of all he can score under Daniel Muscutt. Second in the key race we’ve reviewed was Family Fortunes and he is another who rates a place chance for Michael Madgwick and jockey Scott McCullagh.
3.15 Newbury (Mares National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Series Final Handicap – Grade 2) – THE WHITE MOUSE
This is a competitive affair, as you’d expect, but the one with the form in the bag and crucially more improvement to come is Lucy Wadham’s mare The White Mouse.
We can significantly upgrade her win at Doncaster last time given that in a slowly run three-runner race the figures are never going to be exciting, but her success at Lingfield in November allied with that Donny win is a good indicator that she has the ability yet gets in here off a mark of 125 and that seems lenient to me.
Nicky Henderson’s She Mite Bite and Dan Skelton’s Etamine Du Cochet are next on the list and each have fair chances, but it may pay to go with the one with more as yet unseen ability with Leighton Aspell in the saddle.
3.35 Kelso (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – CAPTAIN DRAKE
Harry Fry sends up this six-year-old gelding and he’s one who’s shown as much versatility on the track of late as he has improvement.
Having won a 2m4f maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter on heavy ground back in December, quite easily I must add, he went on to win again at Southwell on good ground over three miles and as he was left clear by a faller at the last he did so in effortless fashion meaning we don’t even know what level he could have truly reached that day.
As it was he ran to a mark of around 127 or so, which is his handicap mark now, but clearly he could have pulled out another 3 or 4 pounds if he’d needed it that day, will have gone forward again since then and handles just about any ground.
He gets the vote then at a decent price ahead of Paul Nicholls’ recent winner Worthy Farm and the Gillian Boanas-trained Teescomponents Lad.
3.45 Lingfield (Class 2 Handicap) – STONE OF DESTINY
We should never lose sight of the amount of improvement early four-year-olds can offer and so while this is a tight handicap in which plenty have chances, there is some value in backing Stone Of Destiny to small stakes.
Having run third to Encore D’Or at Newcastle, third to Katchy round here over 6 furlongs at Listed level and then run second in a very valuable race in Doha his form is not in question and I’m sure given his raw pace that going down to five furlongs is what he needs now.
At four years old, trained by Andrew Balding, ridden by James Doyle and drawn in stall 2 there are no other obvious negatives against him and at 4/1 or above he looks a fair prospect. Royal Birth is next on the shortlist while we can’t ignore Corinthia Knight who keeps trying hard around this track and whose day will come.