20th October 2017
This column’s Magic Bus tour pitches up at Catterick this weekend – an unusual destination for us. But we go where the best of the handicap action is to be found….
Our target race is the Catterick Dash Handicap (3.30) and a field of 15 runners is set to go to post for this class 2 event for horses aged 3yo+ and rated no better than 100.
They go at it over the straight 5f. The ground is expected to be soft.
Bowson Fred tops the weights on his mark of 97. At the other end of the list Longroom runs off 83. He’s a pound out of the handicap. There’s a stone’s-worth of spread in the field.
One last-time-out winner heads to the track. And two more that won the time before last.
Hats off to William Hill. They’re the only bookie with the stones to price the race up this Friday afternoon….
But they’re not exactly pushing the boat out. They’ve got it buttoned-up tight-with half a dozen runners put in at single-figure prices.
It’s the cautionary posture we expect from a self-professed betting industry giant who likes to see which way the wind is blowing (measured in weight of money) before committing to anything resembling a discernible standpoint….
But, that’s enough of the bitter and twisted stuff from me. At least the Leeds-firm have given us something to work with….
Right now, Richard Guest’s Udontdodou just about shades favouritism at 5s….
The 4yo is the one last-time-out winner. So, no surprise he’s prominent in the betting.
He’s won two of his last three races – both in impressive fashion. But both wins came on the all-weather at Chelmsford.
Back on turf where his last win came in May 2016 off a mark of 79 (he’s 88 tomorrow), he has a little to prove. He’s been sent off favourite twice on turf in the last 12 months. He got beaten both times.
Orion’s Bow has had a terrible time of it since switching to Tim Easterby’s yard back in April….
Back when he was with Dandy Nicholls in the summer of 2016, he won the John Smith’s Scottish Stewards’ Cup Handicap at Hamilton before placing 2nd in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood the following month. He earned himself a career-high mark of 106.
Maybe the rot had set in before Nicholls retired. The horse was sent off favourite for the 2016 Great St Wilfrid at Ripon and got beat. Then he got well beaten in that season’s Gold Cup at Ayr.
Since joining Tim Easterby he’s 0 from 8 – getting well beaten in the last three of those.
Tomorrow, his aspirations have been lowered significantly with this trip to Catterick. He’s down to a mark of 95 – 2lbs lower than his last winning mark – and you’d have to say he merits respect if back to his best….
But it’s hard to envisage. He’s done nothing the last three times and his yard is 1 from 45 over the last fortnight.
Maybe stepping back to the 5f trip against this lower-level opposition will be the key. He’s 14s but I’m not persuaded to put the money down. There could be something wrong with the horse. I’ll just be taking notes….
We’ll get to my selections for tomorrow’s race in a moment. First, a word on the action at Ascot….
There’s always a temptation to take an interest in the races every man and his dog is talking about. And it is the Champions Day G1s that everybody is talking about today….
But one of the benefits of specializing in handicaps is that there’s relatively minimal press coverage and comment. The market isn’t saturated with every detail, every angle, every opinion. There is potential for digging out something the market is overlooking....
I’m sticking with the handicaps tomorrow and in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot (4.30), I’m two-against-the-field with a pair of contenders the market is under-valuing....
You can get immediate access to these extra bets on the website when you take a FREE 14-day test drive of my Against the Crowd service….
I’m going with Robert Cowell’s GREEN DOOR at the 9s with William Hill….
He turned out a couple of times in handicaps at Haydock in September – and got smashed in both, producing a couple of duck eggs on his form line.
But both those performances were produced on heavy ground. And you know that heavy ground at Haydock means bog-like conditions. Any horse can look terrible at the Lancashire track if it isn’t suited to being up to its knees in it.
But those runs served a purpose. They played their part in getting the horse down the weights to the tune of 5lbs.
He turns up here tomorrow on a mark of 95 and having shown a bit at Leicester back on good to soft ground on Tuesday.
It’s quick turnaround. Maybe he’s just bouncing. And maybe Cowell wants to strike whilst the iron is hot.
He’s just a pound ahead of his last winning mark, the claimer who rode him at Leicester partners up again – taking off 3lbs – and the horse has winning form on soft ground. He’s got every chance and his price is fair-enough.
In tomorrow’s Catterick Dash Handicap (Catterick, 3.30)….
GREEN DOOR @ 9s (William Hill)
The standard place terms are 1/4 1-2-3. The price is not an each-way proposition for me. I’ll be backing win only. But, if you want to play for the place money too – don’t let me be the one to put you off....
That’s all from me this week. Enjoy your weekend.