Although the Scottish Grand National is upon us – the fourth biggest betting race of the year in the UK based on turnover – we must look after our pockets and so with plenty of better punting opportunities on the Flat we concentrate on Newbury with a handful of wagers across the weekend.
Saturday sees the track host three Group Three races; the John Porter and two Guineas trials, while Friday afternoon is more about the competitive handicaps and we have a couple of good value bets in both the seven furlong and the stayers’ event.Embed from Getty Images
Friday 20th April 2018
2.25 Newbury – QAYSAR
There are plenty in here with chances on the book, rather typical of a seven furlong three-year-old handicap one could say, however for me the speed figures shown in Qaysar’s debut turf run last year allied with the excellent performance he put in on the all-weather three weeks ago mark him out as the true Kaiser in this race.
He quickened clear readily at Kempton in a novice race under Tom Marquand and now has the assistance of regular Al Shqab rider Frankie Dettory. He may prove to be 5lbs or so ahead of the handicapper now that he can be towed along in a decent handicap and show his pace (he actually had an entry in the Greenham on Saturday).
The main danger may be Lord Oberon if seeing out the trip on turf while Moqarrar may need more time to realise his full potential but is clearly useful.
4.05 Newbury – GOLDEN BIRTHDAY
There plenty in this race by derby winner Pour Moi and/or trained by National Hunt handlers so we have a good handle on where they’re all at despite the Flat season being in its infancy, the standout performer at the weights for me however is Harry Fry’s Golden Birthday.
The 7yo has only run four times on the level, twice on turf, and has a good deal more to give over trips like this yet. I think he ran a cracker over an unsuitable trip despite being sent off favourite when a close up fifth of six in a strong 1m4f conditions race behind Watersmeet on the all weather and can show himself to much better effect now. Coeur De Lion and Champagne Champ may give him most to think about.Embed from Getty Images
Saturday 21st April 2018
2.00 Newbury (John Porter Stakes) – DEFOE
It’s hard to say at the time of writing what sort of price we can expect for Defoe, though I know it won’t be a big one.
Despite the tight potential profit margins involved though, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this horse improved leaps and bounds last season over middle distances and went into the St Leger with a genuine chance. Roger Varian still sees him as a Group 1 horse and with this trip ideal, he should be too good for the improving Call To Mind and the game What About Carlo.
As a 4yo we haven’t seen the best of Defoe yet and he has always gone well when fresh, so the first time out element doesn’t bother me in this. He has an entry in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May and will take up engagements like that this summer so long as he avoids the likes of Enable and Cracksman.
2.35 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes) – GAVOTA
This is a proper 1,000 Guineas trial and in it I find a horse I refuse to give up on as a potential top level performer in the shape of Roger Charlton’s filly.
As a daughter of Bated Breath it’s easy to see why she had speed last season but maybe didn’t always get home when running so well in the likes of the Rockfel Stakes and the Oh So Sharp, though her level of form was excellent.
Being out of a Galileo mare I’d say she’ll appreciate this now she’s had a winter behind her and it’s interesting to note that Charlton, who doesn’t hurry them, booked top jock Ryan Moore nice and early for this outing.
She can take this ahead of a tilt at the big one on May 6th with Hikmaa and Tajaanus taken to fill the places.
3.10 Newbury (Greenham Stakes) – EXPERT EYE
Given the penchant for some racing “fans” to start bringing tribalism into the sport much like football, a few people I noted wanted Expert Eye to fail last year as he didn’t quite come from the stable they support most.
He did indeed flop in the Dewhurst Stakes but that can happen to the best of them and that performance takes zero away from what he did to strong opposition in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last year on only his second career start.
The handicapper was as taken by that as Sir Michael Stoute clearly was and saw fit to throw a mark of 118 at him, extraordinary for a 2yo, and even though that may have been exaggerated it wouldn’t be by more than a pound or two which shows you how good he is.
His price will be prohibitive today, but I couldn’t put anybody off backing him en route to the Guineas for which he could reclaim favouritism should he do the business in good style here. James Garfield may be the main danger.