There is plenty to look forward to in the racing world over the next few weeks.
York's Ebor meeting kicks off next Wednesday, but in the meantime Ripon, Newbury and Newmarket keep us entertained this weekend.
The big betting puzzle is Ripon's Great St Wilfrid, a handicap over six furlongs. The race has attracted some really smart sprinters and should be a very competitive race, as a result there is some great value to be had if you can find the winner!
The top weight is a horse I fancied for the Stewards Cup at Goodwood, Hoof It, but he was well beaten into 15th. It's interesting to see him being fitted with a hood for the first time on Saturday. I can't imagine his trainer Mick Easterby uses this form of headgear willy nilly so they must think it can have the desired effect.
Hoof It has shown signs of being a legitimate group performer in the not too dim and distant past.
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He has also been dropped three pounds for his Goodwood effort and he had shown signs of being a legitimate group performer in the not too dim and distant past. I've certainly not written him off just yet and it could be that he needed those two runs so far this season. He seems to retain his ability and I'm hopeful he can put up a bold show.
Richard Fahey's Baccarat is another horse I liked last time out. He ran in the Sky Bet Dash at York and was hampered in a very messy race that saw one jockey unseated in the latter stages. He is an unexposed horse and his time doesn't look far away, he would have to be on anyone's shortlist for this particularly as he has shown a liking for this course and distance in the past.
To explain, Ripon has small undulations in the straight and it can unbalance a horse, so course form can be important. He runs off the same handicap mark as that run at York and he should go well but he will be plenty short enough in the market for a red hot handicap.
Spinatrix has been in good form for trainer Michael Dods and was a course and distance winner last time out. If the ground eases at Ripon that would be a bonus as the best of her form is with some ease in conditions, as a matter of fact I think she depends on it so I wouldn't be keen if they don't get much rain. She was raised five pounds for that latest win which means she is worse off in the weights with the horse she beat there, Pearl Ice.
I think that makes her life tough, but this could be the opportunity that Pearl Ice needs to get back into the winners enclosure. David Barron's five-year-old has only had 13 outings in his life and has won two of them.
However, he is well overdue a win having not got his head in front since June last year (over this course and distance). As a result he has dropped to a mark he should be well capable of winning off and, with first time cheekpieces on, he is dangerous to discount from his shrewd stable.
Dick Bos runs off the same mark as Pearl Ice and is with a trainer going places. David O'Meara has made a real impact with the horses he has bought from other stables and this horse is no exception. He started his career with Peter Chapple-Hyam but only had the three starts for him (winning his maiden) before being bought by Middleham Park Racing to join O'Meara.
He has won once for his new connections and was another horse to run in the Sky Bet at York last time out. I wonder if he has a bit to find off his current mark even though he is running well at present.
Louis The Pious is his stablemate and he comes here off the back of a seventh place in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood. He is another horse who would enjoy a bit more ease in the ground, but he isn't obviously well handicapped. El Viento is another to hail from the successful stable of fellow columnist Richard Fahey, so no doubt he will give us all the lowdown on his weekend team on www.sportinglife.com/racing too.
This horse won the consolation race for this contest 12 months ago and has the chance to take the big prize this time round. He narrowly beat Prodigality who is another who gets a run in this race on Saturday (interestingly Spinatrix was third behind the pair in 2012).
Prodigality has been running okay this season but hasn't won since taking a little Conditions Stakes at Warwick in the spring. He needs to show more to win this competitive heat, but is the sort that could bounce back especially under decent seven pound claimer Oisin Murphy.
Like Prodigality, Secret Witness is also trained by Ron Harris. He will appreciate any rain that falls here and has a decent high draw. Summerinthecity is another drawn high and comes from a stable that does well with its sprinters - David Nicholls. This horse needs to find a bit I think despite his good draw. Kevin Ryan's Captain Ramius won last year's Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 100 and is now seven pounds higher.
He is yet to trouble the judge since that win last Autumn, but ran well on his penultimate outing at Doncaster in the Cammidge Trophy back in March. He has only had the one start since, in group company at Newmarket in April, and has been off the track since. This is his time of year and he loves soft ground so given rain he could looks a decent each way bet.
What can you say about Borderlescott?! He is 11 years old now and Robin Bastiman took the decision to bring him back into training as he wasn't enjoying his retirement. He was sent off to the retirement paddocks after a run at Dundalk last October as there were concerns over his heart. However, he was kept on the go over the winter by his daughter and the decision was taken to bring him back if he passed health checks. He did so, but has yet to rediscover his old sparkle in two races this term.
The dual Nunthorpe winner is entered in next week's York race and is a huge price (66/1 with Sky Bet) to land the hat trick in the Group 1 sprint. It would seem an unlikely fairytale. So, in summary, you could give chances to half a dozen in the field, but given a decent draw and a hood first time I hope Hoof It can recapture his form and win for owners Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood.
Away from Ripon and there's a good card at Newbury. The Geoffrey Freer is a Group 3 over one mile, five furlongs and 10 horses have been declared. Johnny Murtagh comes over for three rides for Charlie Hills and one for Michael Bell. He rides Model Pupil in this for the former and at the moment he is the jockey that trainers call on for the big races.
Whilst these races aren't quite top class they are decent affairs and he is a good booking. He may have to work his magic if this horse is going to win though as he didn't set the world alight in Listed company last time out.
Aiken is interesting for John Gosden on his seasonal return. Any cut in the ground would be an added bonus. I'm Your Man comes over from Alan de Royer-Dupre's French stables, but he was last seen in action in Newmarket where he was touched off by Lost in the Moment in Listed company. He carried a penalty there though and is back on a level playing field in this which gives him the edge.
Kieren Fallon rides Royal Empire for Saeed bin Suroor. The horse came back from a break to win last time out but steps up to this trip for the first time and his stamina isn't guaranteed on pedigree. There are no stamina fears surrounding Biographer. David Lanigan's four-year-old won over a similar trip at Ascot three starts back and there could be more to come from him as this will be just his ninth outing.
Red Cadeaux is a smashing horse but he has failed to sparkle this flat season. He has to concede weight to his rivals here too with a six pound penalty. I think Biographer is a horse who could improve this season and given his overall profile there could be more to come around these sorts of trips.
The Hungerford Stakes is the other group race on the card. Only five have been declared for the seven furlong Group 2, but there are some smart horses in the line-up. One of which is Soft Falling Rain who comes here unbeaten in all seven career starts. Mike de Kock's colt has been freshened up after a winter campaign in Dubai that saw him win the Godolphin Mile on World Cup night.
His trainer is a genius who has an impressive overall record and although this will be his first experience of racing in the UK I think he can continue his unbeaten run. The trainer bases his UK team in Newmarket and although he doesn't have an abundance of runners he has a decent strike rate, in fact his last runner here, David Livingstone, was a winner.
David Simcock takes him on with Casper Netscher who returned to training with his new handler after failing at stud. Gregorian is his main rival, I feel though. John Gosden's colt was hampered in the Sussex Stakes behind Toronado and Dawn Approach last time out, but before that had run well in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. I'm not sure that a drop back to seven furlongs is necessarily going to help him and as a result I really fancy Soft Falling Rain to get his British debut off to the best possible start.
I'll be back with my next preview in the early part of the week in time for one of my favourite fixtures, the York Ebor meeting, have a great weekend.
Hoof It in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap @ 12/1 with Sky Bet
Biographer in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes
Soft Falling Rain in the Hungerford Stakes
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