I’ve often asked the question of whether it feels worse if your horse finishes in second place, or finishes absolutely nowhere.
Second place means you nearly got it right, but ‘nearly’ never paid the bills and unless it’s an each-way bet, from a financial point of view, it’s just as good as coming last.
Having said that, it doesn’t do much for your ego when your horse finishes at the back of the field, and that’s what happened my selection, Muscika, in last year’s 20-runner Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon priced 28/1, much to the amusement of the lads down the local.
You have to have a thick skin in this game but, mercifully, my reputation was redeemed somewhat as I managed to pick three winners elsewhere for this column on the day.
Justanotherbottle won it at 18/1, and Kevin Ryan’s gelding is back for this year’s renewal (2.50 Ripon). With three wins from three races at this course, he is sure to be popular with punters around 7/1.
It’s tempting to back these course and distance specialists and he definitely has claims – but with a rating of 105, he’s almost a stone heavier than last year and I suspect that will be enough to hold him back.
We’ve a smaller field of 15 this time around and at 5/1 at the time of writing, the one that sticks out is David O’Meara’s Summerghand, which was runner-up in this in 2019 when rated 100, which is 2lbs higher than today.
Regular readers will know I backed him a couple of weeks ago in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood where he finished ninth of the 28 runners off a mark of 100, but the bare result doesn’t tell the full story and he met plenty of trouble throughout the race, so it’s certainly not as bad a result as it looks on paper.
The eight-year-old still has a big handicap left in him, and fingers crossed he can get last year’s money back off the bookmakers for me this afternoon, with Daniel Tudhope booked to ride.
We’ve Group Two action at Newbury where Charlie Hills’ Pogo is tipped at 4/1 or thereabouts under Kieran Shoemark for the BetVictor Hungerford Stakes (3.35). This one wasn’t disgraced when third of 11 in a Group Two at Goodwood last time out.
The six-year-old has been a good servant to connections, winning seven times in a 34-race career and it’s noteworthy that the best of those came this season where he picked up a couple of Group Three victories in May and June.
He’s still improving at this age, and if he can get out early into his favoured front-running position, he should be hard to beat. William Haggas’ Tiber Flow looks the best of the rest.
On the same card, Away He Goes is a nice price around 11/4 in the five-runner Group Three BetVictor Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2.30). Trained by Ismail Mohammed, he hasn’t won a race in quite some time but he’s gone close in good company, and was runner-up in the Group One Goodwood Cup last year.
He was fifth in this year’s renewal of that race, but it was a stronger field and he was not fancied to win, going off at 50/1 in the betting.
A step down in class here gives him every chance, and I’m confident he can see off Zechariah, a useful three-year-old from Freddie and Martyn Meade’s yard.
At Newmarket, Australian Angel looks overpriced at 4/1 in the five-runner JenningsBet Fillies’ Handicap (2.10). A daughter of Australia, Andrew Balding’s filly has kept ahead of the handicapper, winning three of her last five races, and a rise of 3lbs to 78 for her latest success at Sandown last time is not too harsh.
Over fences at Perth, Easy Bucks could be a bit of value around 10/1 for the Mike Ogston’s 50th Birthday Handicap Chase (3.40) in yet another small field of six runners.
Trained by Peter Bowen, my main concern is that he hasn’t raced since June last year, but he’d been running reasonably well when rated in the mid to high 90s when last seen, so it will be very interesting to see how he performs here with a comeback mark of 91.