Monday 26 February 2018

High Standing to deliver goods

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Hoof It has assumed an unusually strong position at the head of the betting for this afternoon's showcase handicap, the Blue Square Stewards' Cup at Goodwood.

Beaten just once in his last four starts, Mick Easterby's four-year-old is undoubtedly a horse of some potential. His latest triumph, at York last week, when he accounted for two of today's rivals Tajneed and Fathsta, was a fine performance.

However, he carries a 6lb penalty as a result now. That leaves him with 10st, and no horse has successfully lumped such a burden in this race in modern times.

King's Signet, which was ridden by Willie Carson in 1993, was the last to score under top-weight, but even he had 4lbs less to carry at 9st 10lb. That gives you some idea of the task facing Hoof It, so he shouldn't be nearly as short as 6/1.

There is far better value to be had elsewhere. Evens And Odds, Colonel Mak and High Standing all appeal as being overpriced from favourably high draws.

Last year's winner Evens And Odds has run just twice at Goodwood, finishing second in this two years ago before winning it in 2010. On both occasions, he has come here with little worthwhile form to his name, just as he does this year.

When you factor in his rider's claim, he is a mere 2lbs higher than 12 months ago, so 25/1 is excellent each-way value. A similar comment applies to the 20/1 shot Colonel Mak, a horse that hinted at a return to form when second at Hamilton lately.

High Standing is also tremendous value for a place at up to 28/1, and he is fancied to be the one they all have to beat. A facile winner at Goodwood on his only previous visit in 2009, William Haggas' charge has dropped from a career-high of 109 to 103.

That gets High Standing in here off a manageable 9st 6lb, and his win in a conditions race at Haydock recently was encouraging. Having been messed around with over seven furlongs and on soft ground, he appreciated the return to six on fast going that day. With Ryan Moore up, he can excel now that he gets those conditions once again.

In the Nassau Stakes, Midday and Snow Fairy are poised for a mouth-watering clash.

Henry Cecil's Midday is bidding for three in-a-row in the 10-furlong Group One.

Beaten comprehensively at The Curragh by Misty For Me last time, the Oasis Dream filly is on a retrieval mission here. She had previously come undone by St Nicholas Abbey in the Coronation Cup, so there are question marks hanging over her.

Nonetheless, when Midday and Snow Fairy met in the Yorkshire Oaks last year, Midday was a comfortable winner.

That race came over Snow Fairy's preferred trip of 12 furlongs so, notwithstanding Ed Dunlop's filly's respectable reappearance behind So You Think at Sandown, Midday ought to prevail again.

While she never landed a blow on Misty For Me at The Curragh, that was largely down to Seamie Heffernan's fine front-running steer on the winner. This should be a more even test, and Tom Queally's partner is due a big performance.

Just beforehand, Activate is taken to leave behind his dismal Northumberland Plate showing in the Summer Stakes. On the back of a three-timer going into the Newcastle handicap, Michael Bell's gelding ran no race at all despite being just 5lbs higher than when collecting in style at Haydock previously.

Activate clearly wasn't right on the day. In a race that features its fair share of deadwood, he can bounce back to form under Jamie Spencer.

At Newmarket, Invisible Man is weighted to win the conditions race. The Godolphin representative has been running well and receives poundage from lesser-rated rivals.

Best Bet: Midday

Irish Independent

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