We have a proper mixed bag of racing on offer this week around the world with temperatures of 21 degrees expected in Florida for the $16million Pegasus World Cup races, while at home we see the jumpers take centre stage on Cheltenham’s Trials Day in what will no doubt be rather more bracing weather.
Cheltenham perhaps requires a watching brief for the most part with the admittedly fascinating great action there not always profitable to bet on, although we do have one confident selection on the card.
With money on our minds then we look far and wide, including in the States with these five runners trusted to deliver us some value for money:
12.55 Doncaster (Class 4 Handicap Hurdle) – ALWAYS RESOLUTE
There are a number of questions regarding runners in this race; how much more has the lightly raced Defi Sacre got to offer? Can Its’afreebee get back to former glories now going back over hurdles? For us though we stick with one that is, well, resolute.
Jockeys on Friday reported the going at Donny to be softening up just a tad and with that in mind Ian Williams’ horse should be back to his best this weekend. Having flown home in a similar contest at Wetherby back in November Always Resolute has been raised 9lbs in the handicap but in a weak race he may still have the measure of his opposition.
Six-year-old Present From Dubai has proven consistent so far in his fledgling career and ran easily his best race around this track albeit in heavier going, though on all known evidence he shouldn’t get past the selection though can be backed for a place.
2.25 Cheltenham (Cotswold Chase – Grade 2) – FRODON
There’s a feeling among some trainers that this race, despite being thought of as a trial for the Gold Cup, is hard enough in its own right to win and so those taking part are likely to have the shine stripped off them before the Festival comes around.
Just be mindful therefore that whatever wins this, for various reasons, shouldn’t really be thought of as a live Gold Cup contender but in terms of today only we should see an admirable and improving horse take one more decent pot in what has been a terrific season.
Frodon has already landed the Old Roan and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup this term as well as only having been beaten by a very well-treated Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup and what’s more, he is still getting better.
He loves running round Cheltenham and this step up in distance shouldn’t deter his bid for Grade 2 glory, Nicky Henderson’s Terrefort and Minella Rocco probably being the main dangers.
3.40 Lingfield (Class 3 Handicap) – AL JELLABY
Some decent, in-form types go to war here for an inconspicuous but potentially reasonably informative winter handicap and while some have questions to answer having shown form on a different all-weather surface, we should expect a career best from Clive Cox’s 4yo Al Jellaby and so he gets the nod.
Having run very solidly in fast ground turf races at places like Ascot at Doncaster last year, the recently gelded son of Exceed And Excel started this campaign with a fine third at Kempton Park to put him spot-on for this race and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was strong money for him in the ring near post time.
The surface at Kempton wouldn’t have been to his liking, nor was the fact that he was a little fresh having not raced since August and he can prove himself to be well-handicapped now and will take his share of races before the turf campaign starts again. Adam Kirby rides.
9.57 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Turf – Grade 1) – AEROLITHE
A brand new race on the world calendar this year is the Pegasus World Cup Turf, something that has meant a split in the $16million purse for this invitational series.
This race alone is worth over £2.3million to the winner and it’s a surprise Europe hasn’t supported it more right from the off, though it seems that despite having a great chance it may not be Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore team who win it with Magic Wand and rather another mare with a very generous allowance in the shape of Japan’s Aerolithe.
Given the firm ground (although rain could arrive) and the trip there are questions for most runners to answer but not so the American-bred of Takanori Kikuzawa’s yard who is getting fully 12lbs from favourite Yoshida. That one looks the best of the home team but it’s Aerolithe who is value to take the inaugural running.
10.36 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup – Grade 1) – CITY OF LIGHT
The aforementioned split in the purse at Gulfstream has meant that this race is no longer the richest in the world after just two years at the top, the Dubai World Cup once again taking over, but at $9million it is still a huge prize and one which Accelerate is a strong favourite to grab.
His Breeders’ Cup Classic victory was not unexpected and he is top class, but with little to no improvement to come overall at this stage and a feeling that he needs every yard of a mile-and-a-quarter to be seen at his best he’s definitely vulnerable over this quick 1 mile, 1 furlong trip.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City Of Light on the other hand just seemed to get better the further he went back at Churchill Downs and this extra furlong on a similar surface looks right up his street, making him on balance the most likely winner on the books.
Audible shouldn’t be so quickly forgotten at this level and he represents a danger of sorts to the principals, however watch out for top class rider Javier Castellano grabbing the lead from his inside gate and attempting to make all on City Of Light.