I am fundamentally against more prize money being thrown at the top end of the sport while the lower tiers struggle to land races worth less than three grand to the winner – it is unnecessary and unedifying – but that is what we have seen this year with increased funds being directed at Royal Ascot, Champions Day at that track in October and, to a lesser extent, at the two-day Derby meeting this week.
Epsom and new sponsors Cazoo haven’t been rewarded with masses of five-day entries for Friday’s Oaks card – one of the 50k handicaps (though admittedly these races are still worth less than they were in 2019) has seen only 15 declared – but hopefully the fields stand up and we have plenty to go at.
Positive forecast so far…
The going at Epsom is currently good (good to firm in places) with a largely fine forecast, though there is the possibility of showers towards the end of the week, with Friday the big headache for clerk of the course Andrew Cooper.
One site currently has 9.7mm of rain forecast for Friday (other sites have far less), which leaves Cooper in an unenviable position as he begins watering (5mm) on certain sections of the track on Monday.
The Oaks market has obviously been well traded and formed in the past few weeks, so I am very much inclined to wait until Wednesday to study this race in any detail, when we will know the final line-up, and, perhaps crucially, the draw.
One thing is certain – and this will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column – is that I won’t be tipping the favourite Santa Barbara unless she doubles from her current odds. And then I would probably pass.
So, even if she drifts to 5/1+, from her current price of around 5/2 on the exchange, I probably wouldn’t go near her as she has every question to answer, to varying degrees, for me in terms of form, ground, course and the 1m4f trip.
However, like I said, I am happy to not show my hand at the moment and revisit the Classic later in the week.
Al Aasy very popular
The Coronation Cup is the other Group 1 on the card, and Al Aasy has been all the rage for the contest since running away with another Newbury Group 3 in mid-May.
With Aidan O’Brien responsible for five of the possible 10-strong opposition, it pretty much kills the ante-post betting stone-dead, as who knows which of Love, Japan, Mogul, Broome and Serpentine will rock up?
The Arc runner-up In Swoop, winner of a Group 3 last time, would be a very interesting proposition but the French trainers have been stressing how hard it is to bring horses over in the current Covid and Brexit climate and I have no idea whether he travels or not,
Anyway, handicaps are more this column’s bag and the 16-runner 1m13yd handicap (note that three places is industry standard here) is first up on that front at 2.35pm.
Hortzadar, Vintager, Shelir, Stunning Beauty, Ebury, Plantadream, Data Protection, Corazan Espinado are double-entered this week – and Mythical Madness is in at Yarmouth on Tuesday – so tread carefully if you like them.
In fact, whoever designed this Epsom card on Friday obviously wasn’t an ante-post punter, as a lot of the above are entered in the 1m2f, 1m and 7f handicaps on the card.
Come on people, it isn’t hard, is it? The 1m2f race is fair enough but either/or of a 1m/7f handicap would do the trick, wouldn’t it?
Big price catches the eye
I couldn’t touch any of those with more than one option ante-post wise, but Mythical Madness, in at Yarmouth, is very interesting. And perhaps the punting exception for reasons I am about to describe.
He is currently 6lb out of the handicap, so even if he picks up a 4lb penalty for winning that nine-runner race at Yarmouth on Tuesday (one firm have priced up that race and make him a very backable 14-1 chance, by the way), it effectively means nothing from a handicapping perspective.
But if he goes well, then it is obviously a big bonus.
This is a horse who takes his racing very, very well, as he has backed up successfully after a short spell in the past, so I reckon he could be worth chancing at 20/1 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook. The bet comes with the obvious risk of a no-show, admittedly.
He has twice finished runner-up in this race (in 2017 and 2018), with a fourth here over 1m2f in 2019 on his only other course outing, off marks in the 90s. He races off 75 here, and 79 if he comes here via a Yarmouth win on Tuesday with a 4lb penalty.
I know he is getting on as a 10yo now but some of this horse’s best runs have been after a short turnaround – only a head defeat prevented him from notching up a hat-trick in 12 days last June, the last victory coming off 84 – and he is just a horse who seems to thrive on hard work and graft for current trainer David O’Meara and former handler Simon Dow.
He won at Haydock in July 2018 for Dow just three days after running at Hamilton (also won within a week at Chelmsford in 2019) and there are numerous other examples of this turnaround toughness throughout his career.
Given that hardiness, his course form, his lowly handicap mark and his ground-versatility, that 20s is too tempting, especially on the likely good or good to firm ground.
I appreciate he hasn’t been in the best of form after being kept busy but he has come down 12lb for his eight runs this year, and I sense a plot given the race and course angle – and his owner loves runners at this track (I think Space Station, a winner here for Dow here in 2010, was one of his) – for all he is also entered at Ayr and Hamilton on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
David O’Meara has four entries in the race and I could have asked someone connected with the yard if Mythical Madness is expected to double up after Yarmouth, win or lose, but I would rather not be beholden to them (and I could have been put away as well…).
Let’s hope he shows up.
The 15-runner 1m2f handicap at 3.45pm is also priced up and the double-entered horses here are Montather, Plantadream and Data Protection.
I couldn’t see much of angle.
Back tomorrow with a look at Saturday’s Epsom card.