I am sure plenty of fans “working from home” on Friday will be looking to start early and finish in time for the start of ITV racing at 1.30pm – if you work for Dido in Test, Track and Trace, or whatever it is called, you should be fine regardless, by the sounds of it – as there are the small matter of nine races on the box.
Unfortunately, three of the five terrestrial contests at Newmarket are juvenile races, but we can’t have it all now, can we?
We are on weather watch again too, as Newmarket was already soft before they got an extra 6mm on Wednesday into Thursday morning, so we could be looking at really testing conditions for the youngsters.
Edition could be First home in Cornwallis
Method is the favourite in the Cornwallis at 13:50 and bids to atone to his Middle Park disappointment, where he pulled too hard and his saddle slipped, so that race was a write-off.
He could well bounce back in this lesser grade but not for me at the price. The most interesting pair against the favourite at bigger odds are First Edition and Royal Address.
Royal Address, an 8/1 chance here, could be one to look to back in-running as he hit a flat spot before winning at Goodwood and on heavy at Chantilly last time – if he wins here, I imagine he will hitting the front pretty late on – but I am not sure why the Betfair Sportsbook put First Edition in at 16/1 on Wednesday (though there was 14s knocking around elsewhere, too).
He finished a neck in front of Bahrain Pride (initially put in at 5s) when fourth in the 6f Mill Reef last time, and looked for all the world that a step back to this 5f trip would suit him there, as he only gave best just before the furlong marker after going from the front again.
If he sees off pace rivals like Acklam Express early doors, he could prove hard to catch and be yet another juvenile Group winner for Clive Cox, though the ground is an unknown.
But no bet as it stands, with the 16s being tweaked into 12s.
Mother Earth the best bet in Fillies’ Mile at the prices
Thinking Of You would have finished much closer had the gaps appeared for her at the Curragh last time – she wasn’t stopped in her run as such, but she never saw any real racing daylight – and I can see why the layers have made her favourite in the Oh So Sharp Stakes at 14:25.
But odds of around 11/4 on the exchange more than factor in that slightly unlucky run last time and she does need to improve to beat the form and time horse Nazuna, while Saffron Beach was wildly impressive when winning her maiden over course and distance last month.
One at a bigger price worth looking at is Thank You Next at around 14/1, as she shaped better than the bare form when fifth at Doncaster last time, as she was positioned away from the main action.
You won’t get many more tightly-knit Group 2 races than the Challenge Stakes at 15:00 in which only 7lb separates the top and bottom rated of the nine runners, and just 3lb the top seven, on official ratings.
Pogo looks the likely pace angle and he was the most interesting at a double-figure price for that very reason, but this is the kind of race which looks an absolute nightmare to call.
The Fillies’ Mile at 15:35 isn’t that much easier to solve, as the Sportsbook’s opening prices on Wednesday underlined (the first four in the market were chalked up at 11/4, 11/4, 3/1 and 5/1).
The ones at the top of the market all have obvious claims but a couple of firms did make a mini-rick in initially putting Mother Earth in as the 50/1 outsider, and I admit to having a very small each-way bet on her at that price on Wednesday.
Her chance is not obvious, granted. She was beaten 13 lengths by Shale in the Moyglare last time and has a lot to find with the market principals here, but she has shaped like a stayer on more than one occasion, and all her best form to date has come on soft ground.
She met trouble in running when a staying-on third to Pretty Gorgeous and Shale over 7f in the Debutante Stakes and her pedigree suggests 1m in testing conditions could see her improve a fair amount. Her half-sister Night Colours was a Group 2 winner over 1m in the heavy at two.
The question is does she remain a bet at around 20/1 now?
The answer is no, in all truth, but I still think she is the best bet in the race if you want one.
Kipps can put rivals to sleep if tactics are right
Talking of warm races, the 1m4f handicap at 16:10 is going to take some winning, as your horse could run well here and still only finish sixth or seventh.
So I am not in the least surprised to see it is 6/1+ the field on the exchange. Surrey Pride was interesting at 10/1 before his price crashed on Thursday morning, with 6s now the best around, so you have to pass.
I came out in a cold sweat when I saw Kipps in the line-up, and I wouldn’t have been alone there as this horse must have cost thousands of punters dear when pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory on at least two of his five starts this season, and there have been genuine excuses on the other three occasions.
The most recent was a stinker of a ride from Kieran Shoemark at Ascot last time, as this horse hit the front about 2f sooner than ideal, so it was no surprise to see him wilt late on.
Now, he is clearly a tricky customer but I think the tactics on him have to be kept simple. Namely, bide your time on the strong-traveller and try and drop him in front near the line.
Over you Jason Watson. You will be carrying my cash at [17.0] or bigger.
Last chance saloon and all that.
I want to be two-handed in a race this fierce though, and Strait Of Hormuz is the saver at [17.0] or bigger.
On the face of it, a 6lb rise for a ¾ length defeat of Derevo at Doncaster last time is plenty, but the runner-up ran a fair race in the Cambridgeshire and they did pull 2 ½ lengths of the third.
However, what leads me to his claims here is the step up to 1m4f for the first time, as he finished off his race really well over 1m2f last time and his pedigree suggests this extra 2f should suit. His sire Sir Percy gets loads of 1m4f+ horses, most recently St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco, and the selection has winning soft ground form, too, though I wouldn’t want it to get any deeper for him.
Two against the field in the 20-runner handicap at York
Over at York, I can quickly gloss over the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at 13:35 and I bet the BHA wish they could forget it too, as they have been rewarded with a field of just four after re-staging the race after Ascot was abandoned last Saturday.
I recommended a lay of Logician there and I wouldn’t touch him with yours at 1/4 here, but the ground doesn’t promise to be anywhere near as bad as it would have been last weekend – although York did have another 13mm on Wednesday night and the ground is soft – and that was one of the main reasons for opposing him. Still, Highland Chief probably is on the big side at 6/1+.
The other two ITV races at York are cracking handicaps though, with the 20-runner 7f192yd handicap at 14:05 next up.
Course winner Chance has a great form chance after being raised just 1lb for his second to the runaway subsequent scorer Raaeq at Sandown on his reappearance – that looks very strong form – but the soft ground is the worry for his backers.
Two interested me here, starting with Crownthorpe at [12.0] or bigger.
He shaped as though a return to winning form could be imminent when third from off the pace on good ground at Haydock last time (Alternative Fact ran really well in second there and this soft-ground winner is also a player here), and the softer conditions are sure to suit him.
He is just 1b higher than when beating Firmament by 2 ¼ lengths in this race last season, and he looks to have been teed up for a repeat bid here.
Being drawn 20 of 20 is the real worry – and that was what probably led to 14/1 initially being offered about him in three places on Wednesday – but that is a chance I am willing to take given his other positives, for all I know he is a very obvious selection.
I was fortunate enough to chuck a few quid on Al Erayg when he won at 22/1 at Redcar last weekend – if you don’t believe me, bite me – and I reckon he has another big run in him here under a 4lb penalty.
He is due to go up that amount anyway after Saturday’s win in first-time cheek pieces (retained here) and I was impressed with the way he travelled kindly through the race and picked up really well when he had to battle.
He is nicely drawn in five to get a prominent position, and 1m in soft ground are his ideal conditions. And he was also rated 9lb higher than this back in 2018, so I think he remains on a decent mark despite the penalty.
He has proved he can back up quickly in the past, and he looks too big at [17.0] or bigger.
The valuable 1m6f handicap at 14:40 has predicted attracted a really good field, and Prince Alex initially made the most appeal.
He can race off only 81 here despite racking up a four-timer, and a 4lb rise for a comfortable Haydock win last time does not look punitive, while soft ground is no issue.
However, this looks a deep handicap, and I can resist a bet now that Prince Alex’s price has crashed from an opening 8/1 into 9/2.
Odds-on fav for the Persian War at Chepstow
Chepstow have got decent fields for a really interesting and varied meeting, so sods law that the sole ITV race – the Persian War at 15:15 – has only attracted seven entries.
I was a little surprised that McFabulous was immediately put in as the odds-on favourite across the board on Wednesday afternoon – his price ranged from 5/6 to 8/11 – given he carries a 3lb penalty and meets some promising sorts, but then again this half-brother to top chaser Waiting Patiently did look very good when we last saw him easing home at Kempton in March and he is clearly held in some regard at Ditcheat.
With one horse shy of each-way angles and plays against him, this is your classic watch-not-bet race.
By the way, it is currently good to soft at the Welsh track, but rain could well turn it soft by Friday afternoon.