Beckett's Talent to show doubters Oaks victory was no fluke
ANY man who tips horses for a living will go through good and bad periods in their career but nonetheless it's still tough to deal with when you hit a lean period.
Having enjoyed a nice purple patch during the month of August, I've found decent-priced winners as difficult to come by as dodo sandwiches this September and last week's main tip, Al Kazeem, cost me a small fortune in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Psychology studies in the US have shown that the pain felt from losing money is twice as strong as the pleasure felt from gaining the same amount and that pain continued for me on Wednesday as three of my bets at the Doncaster meeting all came home in second place.
It's been a tough week but I had some respite on Thursday as I attended the wedding of my good friends Ami and Owen, although unfortunately I didn't get chatting long enough to the bride's father, a regular reader of this column, to get his views on this afternoon's St Leger, which is the final British Classic of the season (3.50 Doncaster).
Brian knows a thing or two about racing and I wonder whether or not he'd endorse this week's selection, Talent, which is the only filly in the 11-strong line-up.
A quick flick through the record books reveals that the last filly to win was User Friendly back in 1992, although it must be noted that just 15 females have taken part since.
Trainer Ralph Beckett freely admits that she's not the flashiest horse in the world but there is stamina on both sides of her pedigree and she's improved with each step-up in distance this season, culminating in a powerful Epsom Oaks victory on soft ground.
The question then is why did she flop badly in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July? It's since been suggested that her Epsom win was some sort of fluke but I'm having none of that and if you watch the Curragh race again, you will notice two distinct differences compared to Epsom, the first of which was the fast going.
As Beckett has said, Talent "likes a bit of juice" in the ground so fast going at Irish HQ was never going to do her any favours. Secondly, the early Curragh pace was very slow which meant it wasn't a truly run affair.
Once it became clear that the daughter of New Approach was uncomfortable, Jim Crowley made the right decision to ease her off.
Granted, her preparation for this race hasn't been ideal and she was pulled from the Yorkshire Oaks last month due to fast ground – but her trainer brought her to Kempton last Friday for a racecourse gallop, which will have helped oil a few hinges.
With a 3lb allowance for her sex, it's worth giving her another shot this afternoon if the ground stays on the softer side of good, priced around 8/1.
At the time of writing, Galileo Rock's participation is in doubt but the one I'm most worried about is John Gosden's Excess Knowledge. His breeding suggests he'll handle the trip and the trainer knows the sort it takes to win the St Leger, having saddled four winners including Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
ANCIENT Cross has become somewhat inconsistent as the years roll by, but on a good day the nine-year-old is still capable of making a bold showing and could be a bit of value at around 20/1 in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap at Doncaster (2.40). His mark has been eased ever so slightly following a couple of below-par efforts on fast ground at York and Ascot recently but he prefers a bit of give underfoot these days and proved he's not a spent force when narrowly beaten in a decent renewal of the Gosforth Park Cup handicap at Newcastle.
2.05 Doncaster: Outstrip
2.40 Doncaster: Ancient Cross (e/w)
3.15 Doncaster: Aljamaaheer
3.35 Curragh: Shirocco Star
3.50 Doncaster: Talent