We have somewhat of a quieter than normal Saturday on our hands, although that is to be expected so close to the Cheltenham Festival. That’s not to say there are no betting opportunities of course, and we have four of them this week.
Our concentration has been on the two main meetings; Wolverhampton on the all-weather where two of the track’s best races of the year are staged, and Sandown’s Imperial Cup meeting.
We have two from each track this week, all four set to go off at good value prices.
2.05 Wolverhampton (Lady Wulfruna Stakes – Listed Race) – HIGHLAND DRESS
Traditionally Wolverhampton’s best race, the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes takes place over seven furlongs and features nine interesting runners this time around.
Godolphin have the lightly-raced Raaeb in here, though the four-year-old is hard to judge. Clearly, we’ve not seen the best of him yet although on all known evidence he’ll need to take a big step forward if he is to challenge.
Karl Burke’s Lord Of The Lodge is solid, runaway 2019 York winner Mums Tipple is coming back to himself and once again has the assistance of Ryan Moore, while Kevin Frost’s Documenting is more than a little interesting coming back from a break.
The one we like best of all however is Highland Dress of Archie Watson’s. A five-year-old Shamardal out of a Street Cry mare, he should love it around here and has so far shown himself to be pretty versatile as far as ground conditions go.
On the turf his best runs were on rain-softened ground while on the all-weather so far, he’s won at Southwell and continued his progress on faster tracks at Lingfield and Kempton.
On the numbers he looks a few pounds clear of these, so with little doubt that he’ll take well to Wolverhampton’s Tapeta surface he seems about a solid a bet at these prices as you’re likely to get. Kieran Shoemark takes the ride.
2.25 Sandown (Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – NATURAL HISTORY
Sandown’s Imperial Cup has a very rich history and has provided many a Cheltenham Festival follow-up contender. This time around there are four of the 15 runners who stand out, beginning with the overpriced Highway One O Two.
Chris Gordon’s six-year-old’s best run was arguably over a year ago now, but he has only run six times over hurdles and could well get better yet. In fact, in his three runs since January he has improved in lumps each time and looks set to at least repeat his best level, something that off a mark of 137 makes him very competitive.
Also in with a shout at a nice price is Paul Nicholls’ top weight Miranda, though her best quality may also prove to be her biggest negative. That quality is her consistency.
Miranda has run to very similar levels on her last three starts, all of them impressive in their own way, but now that she is handicapped appropriately the lack of significant improvement in her profile means she may just be pegged back by her weight.
There has been some good support for Langer Dan for the Skelton team and while he has a clear chance, he has also not won any of his last six which isn’t great in the context of this event and that leaves us with one clear choice.
Gary Moore, who will be as nervous as hell going into Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle with Goshen possessing a proper chance, saddles Natural History in this race and he is very much the one to beat.
Having started off with a couple of runner-up efforts in novice events, the six-year-old showed how well handicapped he is when he blitzed his opposition 12 days ago at Plumpton. He’s gone up a full 16lbs for that, but really it doesn’t quite look enough while there is also further improvement to come from him.
2.40 Wolverhampton (Lincoln Trial Handicap) – TADLEEL
Many of the top contenders for the Lincoln will no doubt just head straight to Doncaster, but the trial at Wolverhampton has proven to be very competitive indeed.
While that makes the race hard to call, it also offers us some tasty prices and the most mouth-watering of all is that attached to Richard Fahey’s Tadleel.
Now six years old, Tadleel is really hitting his stride having won his last two races. Both of those wins came at Newcastle over seven furlongs which is particularly interesting as far as conditions here goes.
Wolverhampton race on the same Tapeta surface as Newcastle, though the finish is easier so given the way he’s seen his races out there up the hill it seems he’ll have no trouble going the extra furlong in this event. He keeps inching up the weights, but by no more than he has been improving so he looks solid.
Karl Burke’s Born To Be Alive is interesting as is the overpriced The Gill Brothers, while potential favourite Mission Boy has a chance but may only hold his place at the head of the market due to the booking of Ryan Moore for the ride.
4.45 Sandown (Handicap Chase) – FIVE STAR GETAWAY
Back to Sandown we go for their final race, a decent two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase. There are three standouts in the nine-runner line-up, with Go Steady of Dan Skelton’s and Golden Whisky for Evan Williams each making the shortlist.
The one to be on however looks to be Christian Williams’ Five Star Getaway. Although running only ten days ago, he should be able to cope with this given the ease with which he went around Wincanton en route to a simple six-length success.
The handicapper has raised him 11lbs for that run, a rise that for our money doesn’t quite hit the stop in terms of judging his real ability and so with yet more improvement almost inevitable, he looks the best in of this bunch at the weights. A price of around 3/1 would be great value for this fella.