Royal Line can crown Gosden Doncaster king
It was long before my time, but I read recently that Middleham trainer Sam Hall was quite good at targeting some of the big handicaps in the 1950s. Hall won the November Handicap (3.15 Doncaster), or Manchester Handicap as it was then, a record five times between 1950 and 1960.
The race was moved to Doncaster in 1964 and was renamed in the 1970s - but call it what you will, another man that's adept at targeting the big races is John Gosden, who equalled Hall's success with five November Handicap winners between 1991 and 2011.
Priced in the region of 11/2, Royal Line is tipped to give Gosden a record-breaking sixth win in the race this afternoon in the once-famous maroon and white Sheikh Mohammed family silks, which have recently been assigned to Sheikh Mohammed's daughter Sheikha Al Jalila.
Those colours have largely been replaced by the Godolphin blue and hadn't been seen in Britain in around ten years, but Royal Line brought them back with a bang with an easy debut success in a maiden at Windsor in September at 4/6, following plenty of market support.
improved The Dubawi colt looked like he had improved quite a bit when following up in a seven-runner handicap at Haydock, although he lost his unbeaten record last time when third of three in a minor event at Newbury. That loss was over the longer 1m5f trip which Gosden now thinks was a stretch too far, but he's expected to get back to his best now down at a mile and a half.
While we don't have a huge amount to go on, I reckon he's unexposed off 96 and almost certainly has more to come. My main concern that he's only raced in small fields, so I'm hoping he gets a clean break and stays out of trouble in-running thereafter under William Buick.
This race, of course, brings the curtain down on the Flat season and it would be nice if punters can inflict a departing wound on the bookmakers as we turn our attention to the jumps game.
Speaking of which, we've the Grade Two Unibet Elite Hurdle Handicap at Wincanton (3.0) to figure out, and although a seven-runner race is not ideal for each-way betting, I'm quite surprised to see Melodic Rendezvous as a total outsider at 33/1 - and I'm going to take a chance on Jeremy Scott's charge, which won this in 2013 off 150. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since and he's now racing off 135 which may just give him a chance.
While it's a very long time since he's won a race, he was still rated in the 140s up until January, but the handicapper is finally cutting him some slack. With these older horses, you risk following them all the way down to the bottom with their handicap mark and a strong case could be made for each of the other six runners, but there's a slight chance he'll find a bit more life in him off this rating.
Getting back to Doncaster, I'm quite keen on Sir Dancealot, which is trading at 5/2 at the time of writing for the six-furlong Listed Betfred Mobile Wentworth Stakes (2.05). A winner here over a furlong longer last month priced 10/11, I don't expect the drop in trip will cause any trouble for David Elsworth's three-year-old, which has already won four and placed in three of his 15 career starts.
Danzeno also catches the eye and could offer the biggest threat to the selection. Although out of his depth in a Group One last time, he's been keeping good company and was fourth of ten in a Group Three at Ascot last month.
Shortly afterwards, Melesina looks overpriced around 20/1 in the Listed Betfred TV EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Gillies Fillies' Stakes (2.40). A Group three winner at Deauville last year, she's been out of form lately but deep down has talent.
With a rating of 139, David Dennis' Final Nudge could be the value option in the Listed Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase (3.35 Wincanton). Priced 16/1 yesterday evening, the gelding won a handicap chase at Newbury off 135 back in February, and that came on the back of a 6lb hike in the weights for winning ten days before.
He later raced off 140 and had every chance when falling four fences out in the Midlands Grand National, and a mid-division placing at Ayr last time off that rating is overlooked as he was possibly feeling the effects of a busy spring.
He was successful on his seasonal reappearance last term and the softer ground this afternoon will help.
2.05 Doncaster: Sir Dancealot
2.25 Wincanton: Modus
2.40 Doncaster: Melesina
3.0 Wincanton: Melodic Rendezvous (e/w)
3.15 Doncaster: Royal Line
3.35 Wincanton: Final Nudge (e/w)
Do the double
Peter Schmeichel reckons his countrymen risk dismissing some of the Irish players simply because they play in the Championship. While Denmark are 3/4 favourites for tonight's World Cup play-off, the boys in green often play best under pressure as proved in Wales. A draw will do, but a win is possible, and I'm happy to back Ireland double chance (win or draw) at evens.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, Modus was a decent hurdler in his time winning the Lanzarote Hurdle back in January, and the seven-year-old got his chasing career off to the best possible start with a win in a three-runner novice race on Hallowe'en. We didn't learn a whole lot from that success at 2/9 but he got the job done with plenty in hand. He can continue his upward curve today at around 4/5 in the Romans Park Homes 'Rising Stars' Novices' Chase at Wincanton (2.25).