Esteaming can make amends for unlucky Doncaster run
The phrase 'down to the wire' is used a lot in sport to describe an event in which the outcome is not decided until the final moments but interestingly enough, the expression has its origins in racing.
Today, TV cameras cover almost every single angle which means a close call can be replayed in an instant. And before we had TV cameras, racecourses would rely on an official photographer who would take a photograph as the horses crossed the line.
But at one time, the stewards had no such luxuries so they would have to stretch a wire across the finish line, a couple of feet above the riders' heads.
One of the stewards would then climb a ladder and place himself at a good vantage point looking down the wire, which made it a little easier to determine which horse crossed the finish line in front. A tight call therefore, was one which went down to the wire.
Speaking of tight finishes, today's November Handicap favourite Penhill (3.30 Doncaster) produced a career best last time to beat Buonarroti by just half a length in a useful handicap at Haydock in September.
Formerly housed with James Bethell, Luca Cumani's gelding is improving with every race and is finally managing to get his head in front after a somewhat frustrating end to his three-year-old campaign last term. He'll love the soft ground but he's got plenty of weight to carry off a rating off 100 and I've a feeling he'll struggle late on. Priced as low as 6/1 last night, I reckon he's best avoided.
Doncaster brings the flat season to a close and if we are honest, it wasn't exactly a vintage year. Obvious highlights include Golden Horn winning a couple of top races but otherwise, we had very few superstars, although it should be noted that a number of good horses had their plans scuppered by the ground conditions on certain big days.
All that said, punters fared quite well against the bookmakers and actually beat them in the top races this year. In England and Ireland Group Ones for example, there were 20 winning favourites from 42 races and that produced a profit of just under 5pts to SP.
Getting back to the November Handicap, it's usually a tricky contest for punters to decipher and last year's winner Open Eagle (15/2) was the first winning favourite since Snow Princess (5/1) back in 1995.
As mentioned, I'm not too keen on taking a single figure price in this race and I reckon Esteaming looks the each-way bet of the afternoon, priced around 12/1.
Trained by David Barron, the five-year-old raced in a handicap over this course and distance against some of these a couple of weeks ago but he hit a wall of horses when he tried to make a move a couple of furlongs out, and ended up having to switch.
In the end, he finished seventh which doesn't do him justice and the handicapper has left him with the same mark of 88. Jockey Joe Doyle will take 3lbs off today and I'll be surprised if he doesn't go very close, provided he keeps out of trouble. Ralph Beckett's Green Light looks the biggest danger.
A little earlier, Lightning Moon catches the eye at odds of around 7/2 in the Listed Wentworth Stakes (2.20 Doncaster). The mount of George Baker, the Godolphin colt is lightly raced and having won all three starts last season as a three-year-old, his form has been up and down this year and he hasn't managed to score in three attempts.
His most recent effort when 13th of 20 runners in the British Champions Sprint Stakes looks poor on paper but the draw wasn't ideal and it was, after all, a competitive Group One which was won with a brilliant performance by Muhaarar. Significantly down in class, he deserves his place at the top of the market.
In the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton (2.05), The Ould Lad is expected to go well in what is his first outing for Paul Nicholls.
Pulled up in a novices' handicap chase at Sandown in April last time, he was obviously out of sorts and deserves another chance around 7/2.
THE David Nicholls-trained Big Time looks a cracking each-way bet if he goes off anywhere near his forecast price of 14/1 in the Betfred Good Luck Hayley Turner Handicap at Doncaster (1.50).
Adrian Nicholls takes the reins of the four-year-old which was only beaten by a neck off today's mark of 85 in a handicap at Nottingham last time, having traded as low as 1/5 in running.
The gelding's form went sharply downhill during the summer but he's picked up well since arriving at Nicholls' yard in September.
1.30 Wincanton: Long House Hall
1.50 Doncaster: Big time (e/w)
2.05 Wincaton: The Ould Lad
2.20 Doncaster: Lightning Moon
2.30 Aintree: Purple Bay
3.30 Doncaster: Esteaming