The flat season is filled with puzzling big-field handicaps and the return of Autumn brings about two of the biggest of them all. The Cesarewitch is to follow in a few weeks for stayers but this week sees the Cambridgeshire take centre stage at HQ on the final day of their 3 day meeting. Richard Fahey trained the winner last year in the form of Third Time Lucky, who under a low weight stayed on nicely to claim the lucrative prize. The three year old had been progressive all year with a number of very good efforts throughout the season and for this race in particular recent form can be a good indicator of where the most likely winner might come from. We take a look at the main protagonists below, but before we do, there are a few key stats that the past 10 years’ renewals show us that are worth mentioning:
– Horses that have won 1 race or more this season fare much better in this race than those that are winless (and thus could be better handicapped)
– Horses that finished in the placings last time out tend to beat home more horses than those that were outside the places last time out
– Horses carrying less than 9st are preferred
– No draw bias
With these key stats, let’s go through some key players below.
Last years winner THIRD TIME LUCKY (8/1) heads the market this year but surely must be taken on. He won the race off 95 last year when bang in form and returns here off a 5lb higher mark, and although was unlucky when staying on at the finish in a big York handicap that was won by Firmament (who interestingly was one of the antepost favourites for this race) the 8/1 price is plenty short enough. One positive for backers of Richard Fahey’s charge is that favourites show a £1 stake profit of £11 over the past 10 years, with 3 favourites obliging.
BRAVO ZOLO (12/1) hasn’t been seen since running a huge race in the Lincoln in April. That is a large absence to overcome but it was a very pleasing run in tough conditions and connections must have earmarked this race after the Flat season curtain raiser and looked after his handicap mark since. He certainly is a talented performer and under big race jockey Frankie Dettori will be backed on the day. For me, I would rather see the horse have a bit more racing under his belt before coming to a race as competitive as this.
SPARK PLUG (14/1) will be popular with punters and he is rock solid in races such as this. He put in his best performance for a good while last time out at York, finishing ahead of Third Time Lucky, and definitely stays further than 1m1f which could be seen as a big advantage in this race, with a fast pace likely. His handicap mark is on the high side but it could well be within reach, and I would expect him to be bang there.
Not many 3 year olds feature high in the betting markets so the best chance for this age group is probably BANKSEA (16/1) and VERY TALENTED (20/1). BANKSEA would be the one out of these two that would appeal. He fits all of the required attributes as mentioned above and has ran two very good races in decent handicaps this season. He is improving, and although he will need to by probably the best part of 10lb to win here, that is completely viable. Jamie Spencer rides and I would like to see him go forward from his draw rather than holding him up, but at the prices it looks like the risk worth taking.
KNIGHT OWL (20/1) is interesting. He bolted up on the opening handicap on Guineas day and although he disappointed next time out at Yarmouth, his last run was much more like it and it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for him to put in a career best here off a very low racing weight. George Wood is great value for his 5lb claim also. Perhaps a surface with ease would suit better and if it was to come up softer then he would be high on the shortlist.
I do think CELESTIAL PATH (25/1) has had a race in him such as this since he has come back on the scene this year. He ran a brilliant race to finish 2nd at York and then was just drawn on the wrong side at Goodwood and was never able to get into a decent position. He ran in a Group 3 at York next time over this trip and I think it is fair to say he wasn’t asked a huge amount that day – a handicap off 104 is completely possible.
So many in here you could also make a case for
BRONZE ANGEL (25/1) returns after winning this race in 2012 and 2014, EDUCATE (25/1) won it in 2013, and there are a few more that have had Group race experience in their career. A hugely competitive handicap – probably the most difficult of the year – but I do think BANKSEA has it in him to run a big race at his price and KNIGHT OWL would have a better chance than the market suggests if it is to come up softer. Whichever way you decide to bet make sure to wait until bookmaker offers are released as there are sure to be some paying 6 places, giving a very nice edge on place terms.
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