It is the cool before the warmth as regards the class of this weekend’s racing before Royal Ascot but the scorchio weather means that this Saturday’s three meetings on ITV will surely all take place on rattling quick ground.
I know weather forecasts are regularly inaccurate – witness Epsom last Friday – but we would be heading into Michael Fish storm territory if the fast-ground horses do not get their conditions.
Hopefully, that won’t take its toll on field sizes, especially as the five-day entries for the eight ITV races are not exactly plentiful – the Betfair Sportsbook have priced them all up – with just two of the contests attracting more than 14 runners on Monday.
Nothing from Chester or Sandown caught my eye at all, and in truth it was pretty slim pickings in the four terrestrial races from York, too.
Take on the jolly with doubts about his participation
I like Azano in the 7f handicap on the Knavesmire (2.35pm) but unfortunately he has an entry in the 1m Listed race there on Friday, so that ruled him out from an ante-post perspective, and the 3yo 6f handicap (3.40pm) looks an absolute nightmare with so many unexposed up-and-comers in the race.
Before I look at the actual make-up of the races, I would have said the seven-runner Listed race at York (3.05pm) would have been the outsider of eight to interest me, but I am going to suggest a couple of minimum-stakes bets on Oriental Mystique at 10/1 and Makawee at 15/2 win-only, respectively, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
The reason why I want to get involved in the race is that I am not sure the 8/13 ante-post favourite Ilaraab will run on the expected ground (no doubt York will water all week , but it is currently good to firm and they’ll have to give the watering can some hammer to change that).
Ilaraab looked all over a minimum Group 2 horse when winning a 1m4f handicap off a mark of 102 here last time and could win this on the bridle if being allowed to take his chance and handling conditions, as well as the longer trip. Connections have him in the Hardwicke next week.
Timeform did call it good to firm when he won his novice by a neck at Thirsk but his rapid progression has come on easier ground and it is interesting to read that Martin Dwyer reported he “has big feet and was feeling the ground” when winning on good at Newbury in September.
William Haggas may not want to risk him on such a lively surface (and he also has Roberto Escobarr in here), and he obviously takes up a huge amount of the market at this stage.
Louganini’s best form has come on soft, as has Ranch Hand’s, and they are vying for second favouritism, so this could set up really nicely if you get a definite runner.
And hopefully we have two.
Two that we know handle quick ground
Makawee (course form figures of 1522033) is in decent nick and looks very likely to turn up – the out-of-form course and distance winner Red Verdon also doesn’t have any other weekend entries – and she is a bet as a result.
She bumped into a couple of improvers over 1m6f in the soft in Group 3 company here last time and handles quick ground and this course very well, so she is set to rock up and run her race. It could be good enough.
I am not so certain Oriental Mystique will be confirmed on Thursday morning but I think the chance is worth taking she will at 10/1.
She finished a length behind Makawee on fast ground at Goodwood first time up and they were apparently concerned about her stamina lasting home over 1m4f on easy ground at Haydock last time.
And I think that led Oisin Murphy to possibly giving her a moderate ride.
He went from the front there but given the manner in which she rallied once headed 2f out leads me to believe he set far too modest a pace, and in fact this filly could have more stamina than connections initially thought.
The vibes are that they also think she may need some dig but the fact is her best run to date came on good to firm at Goodwood, and I think she is a filly with a lot more to give form-wise.
Two bets, to small stakes. Good luck.