Handicapped to win going into the new season....

Last Updated: 12.04.2021

Monday, 12th April 2021

Handicapped to win going into the new season….

I won’t be sorry to see the back of the jumps season. It hasn’t been kind to me….

I could have done with a couple of the horses placed 2nd across the season to have done that slight bit more on the day….

I would have liked fewer of my horses to run like they’d been fitted with first-time wooden legs….

But the game doesn’t give a damn about what could have happened differently or what I would have liked best. It is what it is. The results stand and I can’t change them now….

But you never get time to stand still and wring your hands in this game. It moves on swiftly and you have to move on with it. That’s probably a good thing….

The flat season takes a step forward this week – with Newmarket’s Craven meeting starting on Tuesday and the Spring Cup scheduled for Newbury on Sunday (moved forward 24-hours to avoid clashing with Prince Philip’s funeral)….

N.B. The Scottish Grand National at Ayr will also now be run on Sunday….

  • Stop at a win – Aplomb…. 

It’s the time of year when I consult last season’s notes in search of horses heading into the new season potentially well-handicapped – horses I’m putting on my Watch List on a ‘stop at a win’ basis….

Aplomb, for example….

He found the transition from 3 to 4 difficult. His 10 runs last season delivered just a single win – and that coming only when he’d dropped down the ratings scale from 96 to 88….

William Haggas moved the sprinter on to Jane Chapple Hyam during the close season and the 5yo starts the new term on a mark of 90 – a rating that puts him in the ballpark or somewhere close to….

Cut in the ground has been a key feature of his best performances. His four career wins have been registered against 7 opponents or fewer. Most of his best work has been registered post-July….

It did look like Chapple-Hyam was eager to get started with her new charge. She had him entered the 6f handicap at Newmarket on Wednesday. But he wasn’t declared for the race earlier today….

The ground might would probably be a bit quick for him as it stands. Maybe he wasn’t ready. He’s only been with Chapple-Hyam a couple of weeks….

It’s worth noting that whilst he’s never won on either Newmarket track (Rowley or July), Aplomb produced competitive performances on each of his three visits. Perhaps he likes racing on his own doorstep? Chapple-Hyam is not far from either track….

If or when he adjusts to his new surroundings he’s got some decent bits of form in the book that say that he’s dangerous off an official rating of 90 or lower – given the right circumstances and conditions….

  • New surroundings….

Given that William Haggas has moved him on, you could make the argument that Aplomb must have gone backwards…. and that he’s already done all that he was ever going to do….

After all, if Haggas – a top-drawer trainer and a fine judge of a horse – has decided he doesn’t want Aplomb in his yard anymore, what does that say about the 5yo’s prospects going forward?

I can see where that argument comes from. But it’s too simplistic. Horses move out of top yards all the time. It doesn’t mean they’re finished. Far from it….

For a start, who says it was Haggas’ decision to move the horse on anyway? The owner might well have decided that the horse would benefit from a change….

Down at William Haggas’ yard Aplomb is never going to be the stable star – or anything close. He’s a handicapper in a yard here the #1 objective year-on-year is to find, develop and capitalise on Pattern talent…. 

Haggas had 478 runners on the turf last season – 97 of those ran in Pattern races. It’s a different story at Jane Chapple-Hyam’s yard. She had just 76 turf runners in total in 2020 – and only a handful of those were rated 90+….

In other words, Aplomb will be one of the big boys in his new yard. He’s  –like a Premier League squad player dropping down to the Championship. He’ll have a bit of ‘star’ status. He’ll be a flagship runner for his new team….

And no doubt – because of that – he’ll get a fatter share of the important resources (including time and attention to detail) than might have been the case amongst the brighter lights at Haggas’ yard…..

If his new surroundings, a different routine, fresh people, and a new training regime can serve to freshen him up and revitalise his enthusiasm, the change of yard can serve as a launchpad to a more productive campaign….

And that’s the case with any young handicapper moving out of a top yard and into a smaller one….

  • Stop at a win – Copper Knight.... 

Copper Knight hasn’t gone anywhere in the close season. He remains housed with Tim Easterby – but sooner rather than later I expect him to turn up in a winner’s enclosure somewhere….

He didn’t have a particularly productive season last term. Nine runs over the minimum trip produced no victories and just a single place (on his first run of the season). He wasn’t quite managing to get competitive off marks in the 100s….

As recently as August he was rated 100. And he’d been up as high as 106 and running in Listed-class races. This term he started on 87 and after a down-the-field finish at Musselburgh earlier this month he’s now down to a mark of 85….

He might be a 7yo now but that doesn’t put the lid on a sprinter and he’s rated to win on his lowest-ever perch….

He wasn’t ‘expected’ at Musselburgh. He was reported by connections to be in good heart but likely to come on for the run. He ran 7th – beaten just under 6-lengths – and he will do better going forward….

Tim Easterby put a claimer on the horse for that race up in Scotland – something he’s rarely done. Even when the horse was at his peak on the rating scale, Easterby seldom turned to a claimer….

Perhaps it’s a nothing detail – something we shouldn’t read much into. Perhaps it’s a sign that – with an overtly advantageous rating to play with – Easterby intends to ‘make sure’ and give the horse as much advantage at the weights as he can. Time will tell, but this horse is a winner in waiting….

Chester and York have been happy hunting grounds. Form figures at Chester read: 1102. At York: 1060011315708….

He’s been at his very best on good and quicker ground. May has been the best time to catch him. Form figures in that month read: 16110213. David Allan has been the best man to have in the saddle….

Here’s something to note. Once June is over, Copper Knight is in the habit of going ‘quiet’ during July, August & September – his last 20 runs in these months produced a single win and no other performance I’d term ‘competitive’….

But October is different. It’s as if Tim Easterby revs him up at the back end to get one more payday out of the horse before pulling up stumps for the season. Seven October runs have produced a win and four competitive efforts….

It’s a pattern worth knowing about. Most of the punters you’re betting against won’t….  

  • The final word….

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

Anything to report? Anything to say? Anything to share? Contact me at: nick.pullen@oxonpress.co.uk

Until next time. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd