Harley's 'Army' worth fighting for at Newbury
Many moons ago, I went out with a Scottish girl and we often travelled around her country visiting various towns and cities.
I know we complain quite a lot about the rain in Ireland, but it always seemed to be miserable out over there and although beautiful, I found out recently that some parts of Scotland are among the wettest places in Europe.
On two occasions, we passed through Ayr and both times, it absolutely lashed rain meaning we had to abandon our planned walk about the place and head for the shelter of the boozer, much to my delight.
Ayrshire gets lots of mist and rain and, unfortunately, this afternoon's Ayr Gold Cup meeting has been abandoned due to water-logging. But it looks like there may be an underlying problem with the drainage as it was confined to certain parts of the track.
Nightmare It's a big blow to the organisers with the clerk of the course Graeme Anderson describing it as "devastating" and "a nightmare". In fairness, they made a call on it early on Thursday which was helpful, and it means time wasn't wasted studying the cards.
With Ayr gone, attention turns to Newbury which hosts the Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes (2.50) and while two-year-old races usually involve a lot of guesswork, by September backers mostly have a handle on the form and that's borne out in the stats.
If you take two-year-old Group Two races in the month of June, for example, the favourite has a strike-rate of 31pc (since 2008) with 11 winners from 36 bets and a small loss if blindly backed. But punters are far more clued up at this time of the year with most horses having now raced a few times.
Indeed, since 2008, September favourites in these races produced 28 winners from 54 bets (52pc) and a profit of over 10pts to a level stake. Good races for backers then, and that trend is evident in the Mill Reef with nine of the last ten winners priced 4/1 or below.
At the time of writing, Invincible Army heads the betting around 11/4 under Martin Harley and I reckon the market can get this one right again.
In fact, I was expecting him to be a bit shorter so I'll be happy to have a decent-sized bet on the James Tate-trained colt, which traded odds-on in a Group Two at York in August before finishing second to Richard Fahey's Sands Of Mali.
He's been quite consistent in pattern company and improved on the York race to win a Group Three on the all-weather last time - and while there's no guarantee that Polytrack form will transfer back to the turf, he seems quite versatile and has acted on both good to firm and heavy ground.
James Garfield is also in with a shout from George Scott's yard with Frankie Dettori booked to do the steering. The pair were unlucky to be beaten by a nose last time in a Group Three having hit 1/50 in-running on Betfair.
Owen Burrows' Enjazaat is worth a mention having shown a very nice turn of foot to win a Listed race at Ripon recently but I reckon the best approach to this race is to keep it simple, and Invincible Army has shown he has what it takes to win.
A little earlier, a chance is taken on Desert Encounter which is vying for favouritism with Second Step around 7/2 for the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes (2.15).
The selection finished mid-division in a Group One at Ascot in June, but previously came third at that level at 50/1 behind Ulysses and Barney Roy in the Eclipse. Based on that showing, he should manage to get competitive now down a couple of steps in class.
Sir Michael Stoute's Fidaawy heads the early markets around 8/1 for the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury (2.40), and a 5lb penalty following on from his recent win in a decent handicap at York won't be too much of a burden. But this race looks very competitive so he's ruled out simply on prices.
There are plenty of good horses in with chances here at double-figure odds and I'm quite keen on Law And Order which is expected to go off in the region of 16/1. Trained by James Tate, the three-year-old comes here with a rating of 100 but he's due to go up 4lbs in the future. His latest run at Kempton, where he made little impression in a Group Three, is forgiven as he was stretched at a mile and a half.
He'll appreciate the step down to a mile and a quarter today and he certainly wasn't disgraced when runner-up in a Listed race at Windsor last month, having won at that level back in April.
He's getting to the stage where he's running out of handicap options but a racing weight of 9st 1lb leaves him in with a good chance of landing some place money at the least today.
2.15 Newbury: Desert Encounter
2.50 Newbury: Invincible Army
3.25 Newbury: Law And Order (e/w)
4.0 Newbury: Take Cover
5.20 Catterick: Ambrosia