Some week so far, and something for everyone.
If you back Irish horses, then Tuesday was your day (4 winners), and a little bit of Wednesday (2). If you back horses that James Doyle rides – and there is a growing number of people who do – then Wednesday was your day (3). If quintessentially British fairytales are your thing, then it was Thursday (1), and if you are into horses whose names have a connection to light (okay, it’s tenuous), then you would have cleaned up on Friday (3).
It’s Diamond Jubilee day today, and Society Rock is a worthy favourite for the feature race. James Fanshawe’s horse would have gone a lot closer in last year’s renewal, he might even have given Black Caviar a fright – not that she and Luke Nolen weren’t able to give themselves a fright all on their own – had he not completely missed the break. He was always playing catch-up after that, so he did really well to get to within two lengths of the winner.
He looked as good as ever on his only run this term, coming with a nice run down the near side to win the Duke of York Stakes last month, he has a good record at Ascot, and he is a leading player.
However, he is short, and this is a poor race for favourites. In the 11 renewals since the race gained Group 1 status, Black Caviar, a 1/6 shot, is the only clear favourite to win it, and she only just fell in. Starspangledbanner was 13/2 joint favourite in 2010, but the race has thrown up some surprises. Three of the last five winners and four of the last seven were sent off at 20/1 or bigger.
Not only that, but Society Rock just shouldn’t be as far in front of some of his rivals as he is in the betting. He should not be less than half the price of Hawkeyethenoo for starters. Jim Goldie’s horse had Society Rock two lengths behind him in fifth place when he finished second, just three parts of a length behind Maarek, in the British Champions Sprint over today’s course and distance last October.
Society Rock did have Hawkeyethenoo back in fourth place when he won the Duke of York Stakes last month, but the Hawk Wing gelding didn’t have the run of the race that day. He was checked at a crucial stage of the race just when he wanted to go forward and just as Society Rock was being delivered with his unimpeded run by Kieren Fallon down the near side.
When Graham Lee did get his horse out into the clear, he ran on well all the way to the line to be closest at the finish, just a nose behind Gordon Lord Byron, and a length and a half behind Society Rock.
Anecdotally, we know that Society Rock loves Ascot, but his record over today’s course and distance now reads 121055. It isn’t as good as it was at this time last year (1210). Hawkeyethenoo’s record over tomorrow’s course and distance reads 32, third in the 2012 Wokingham at 20/1 when he shipped a slight bump a furlong out, and second in the Group 2 British Champions Sprint last October. He likes the place too.
A little bit of rain would not harm his chances at all, but he goes well on fast ground too. His draw in stall nine is good, right in the middle. There are only 18 runners, not 30, so they could race in one group tomorrow, right up the centre, and that would suit Hawkeyethenoo well. He is a hold-up horse, so he will need to find the gaps at the right time, but he is a high-class sprinter, he is under-rated in this grade as he is still considered a handicapper by many.
He has yet to win a Group race, but he has run some big races in defeat in this grade, and we know that there is not much between the top sprint handicappers and the Group performers anyway. If things drop right for him, if the gaps appear at the right time, he has the ability to land one of these big prizes. He is over-priced at around 13.
You could make a case for plenty of his rivals. Dandy Boy goes well at the track, Sea Siren adds the Antipodean angle that always has to be respected, and Gordon Lord Byron is top class. However, the other horse who may be worth backing at current prices is Slade Power.
Eddie Lynam’s horse has to prove that he belongs in Group 1 company, and he did disappoint a little when he was well-fancied for the British Champions Sprint in October, but he remains a sprinter with tremendous potential.
Winner of two listed races last year as a three-year-old, he shaped nicely on his debut this term in finishing third in the Group 3 Greenlands Stakes at The Curragh. That run should have put him spot on for tomorrow.
He has always been really highly-regarded by his trainer, who knows a thing or two about high-class sprinters, and whose horses are in flying form. Lynam obviously sent out Sole Power to win the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, Viztoria ran really well in the Coronation Stakes today on ground that was probably too fast for her, and the trainer had two winners from two runners at Limerick on Saturday.
Slade Power might be out-classed today, but he might not be. He could surprise some members of the more established brigade, and he could out-perform odds of around 14 by a fair way.
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