Home Of The Brave worth keeping onside
Back in 2011, a chap by the name of Costis Mitsotakis was the only resident in the tiny Spanish village of Sodeto who did not take part in a syndicate for the country's massive Christmas lottery known as El Gordo (the fat one).
If you haven't heard this story before, you can probably guess where it is going. The lottery numbers came up and in total, the residents won around €120m between them - except for Mitsotakis, of course, which collected nothing. He's now being dubbed the world's unluckiest man - although Mitsotakis, a film-maker has said he's managed to get plenty of work out of it since, and even made a documentary about it.
Back in May, I got a tiny flavour of how Mitsotakis must have felt when everyone I knew plus their granny seemed to be backing Home Of The Brave for the John of Gaunt Stakes at Newbury.
One or two professional punters I know had lumped on at 9/4 but I was extremely keen on So Beloved, and stuck to my guns at 11/4, not wanting to get caught up in the herd mentality.
At one stage, my selection was travelling wonderfully and when I saw his price hit 4/6 in-running on the machine, I was trying my best not to look too smug.
But as we all know, racing can be a cruel game at times and he somehow got boxed in and couldn't kick on for home, leaving Home Of The Brave to eventually beat Convey in a tight finish, with my horse back in third.
At least those around me had the decency not to say 'I told you so' but it's a strange feeling when you are the only one not celebrating.
Having watched that race several times since, I'm able to put up my hand and say that Home Of The Brave was a deserving winner, and Hugo Palmer's colt is tipped to beat Convey again in an today's renewal of the Group Two Hungerford Stakes at Newbury (4.10).
Jim Crowley gets the ride for the first time, with William Buick overseas and James Doyle suspended, and the 6/4 available last night seems more than fair.
Following the John of Gaunt, the four-year-old finished behind Dutch Connection in a Group Two at Goodwood, but he pulled a little hard in that race, and the presence of stablemate Gifted Master, which also likes to race from the front, make the tactics a little tricky.
If Crowley gets out early today at a decent pace to suit his mount's front-running style, the race is there for the taking.
Convey ran well without setting the world alight in a Group Two at Ascot in July and registered his second career win when dropped in class to Listed level at Pontefract last time. However, there's nothing to suggest he'll reverse the form with Home Of The Brave (below).
Another one worth a mention is Markaz for Owen Burrows' yard, priced in the region of 6/1. He was fifth in that aforementioned Goodwood race won by Dutch Connection, which was somewhat disappointing, but he never really settled and is best judged on his previous winning form in the Group Three Chipchase at Newcastle.
A little earlier on the same card, Amabilis looks over-priced around 3/1 in the five-runner Listed Denford Stud Washington Singer Stakes (2.30), with Pat Smullen booked to do the steering.
Escobar will probably go off as favourite for Hugo Palmer under Frankie Dettori, and his winning debut in a maiden here last month was promising. But bookmakers are taking no chances and have chalked him up at 13/8 in the early markets, which seems a little short.
Amabilis has raced twice in maidens and Ralph Beckett's filly finished second on both occasions but she's related to some smart winners and is sure to improve as she gains experience.
Later this evening at Lingfield, Grey Britain has a similar profile to Amabilis, having finished second in two maidens, but John Ryan's colt can put things right in the Cashout Available On The App At Ladbrokes Maiden Auction Stakes (6.0) under Jim Crowley.
With some of the field unraced, it's a tricky enough contest to get a handle on but the forecast price of 2/1 about the selection looks about right based on what we know - and it's worth noting he traded odds-on in running at Yarmouth last time when narrowly beaten by Pranceleya for the Marco Botti yard.
While Pranceleya was subsequently well beaten in her nursery debut as expected at 16/1, the horse which finished third at Yarmouth (Sir Viktor) has since won a maiden, so it shouldn't be long before Grey Britain gets off the mark.
Last year's winner Don't Touch was one of the exceptions, but previous course form is usually a big advantage in the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Stakes (3.55) and four of the last six winners had won at Ripon before.
David O'Meara has a great record in this race, providing three winners since 2011 while Richard Fahey has saddled the other two so their entries are highly respected.
However, I'm quite keen on Bryan Smart's Nameitwhatyoulike, which should go off at a nice each-way price of 20/1 or thereabouts.
With seven wins from 50 races, the seven-year-old has a strike-rate of 14pc, but he has performed particularly well at Ripon, with one win and six places from seven races at the North Yorkshire venue.
He appeared in need of the run when finishing mid-division in the Scottish Stewards' Cup Handicap at Hamilton in July but he's down 1lb in the weights and should be a little sharper today.
Orion's Bow is the obvious danger horse having racked up five wins in a row before finishing second in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood, and it will be interesting to see if the handicapper has finally caught up by issuing a mark of 106.
2.30 Newbury: Amabilis
3.05 Newbury: Kings Fete
3.55 Ripon: Nameitwhatyoulike (e/w)
4.10 Newbury: Home Of The Brave
6.0 Lingfield: Grey Britain