Sunday 21 January 2018

Unbeaten Limato can make it six from six on road to Ascot


Jimmy Greaves once said that football is "a funny old game" but so too is horse racing and betting. Despite picking two winners from six selections last weekend including an 11/2 shot in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, I still somehow managed to lose quite a lot of money.

To cut a long story short, I had too much money on the losers and not enough on the winners. It just goes to prove that you can get things right and wrong all at the same time in this the most precarious of pastimes.

The missus wasn't too happy when I woke up on Monday morning with very little dough to show for my weekend efforts and I tried to explain that forecasting is no easy business.

Indeed back in 2004, a horse owned by fortune teller Mystic Meg, or Margaret Anne Lake as she's known to the taxman, won at Goodwood. But, strangely, Mystic Meg seemed to be unaware that the horse would win at 12/1 and failed to show up to watch the race. That left trainer Mark Tompkins fielding some rather amusing questions, as he tried in vain to explain why Astrocharm's owner wasn't there to collect the prize.

If Mystic Meg can't figure out this game with a crystal ball, what chance has a mere punter got with a simple racecard? But, for better or worse, it won't stop us trying and all will be right in the universe, and with the missus, if I manage to earn a few bob in Haydock's Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes (3.45).

I won't win any awards for originality here but sometimes, you have to go with the obvious and Limato looks a rock-solid bet this afternoon, priced in the region of 5/4. I read somewhere that he was Timeform's highest-rated male juvenile in 2014 and a quick flick through his record reveals why.

Unbeaten in five starts, he took a couple of Listed races last season almost on the bridle and there's absolutely no doubt that Henry Candy has a seriously talented animal on his hands. In April, he stepped up in class to win an Ascot Group Three at the expense of the quite talented Tendu, despite the fact that Candy had issued some warnings before the race about his charge's work at home.

Limato has been given a relatively easy time in the yard since - and with a couple of Group One races already pencilled in for later in the season, it's clear that connections have big plans in mind for the three-year-old gelding. A six-furlong specialist, the inaugural £375,000 Commonwealth Cup is the obvious target at this year's Royal Ascot. Top-quality sprinters don't always have a huge amount of options, so it's a welcome addition to the meeting which kicks off on June 16.

Of the rest today, Mattmu (which also has a Commonwealth Cup entry) is most likely to give the selection trouble. Tim Easterby's colt has already earned a Group Two victory at Maisons-Laffitte, and was only beaten by a head on his Group Two return at York, despite carrying a penalty for the French win.


Being Britain's tightest track, it's well known that low-drawn (inside) horses have a significant advantage at Chester. As mentioned in this column before, that advantage is more evident in handicaps, especially with horses which are higher up in the ratings.

Racing out of stall two, Empress Ali looks an each-way steal at 12/1 in the Coca Cola Handicap (5.20) for Tom Tate, with Andrew Elliott booked to ride. A daughter of Holy Roman Emperor, her most recent race here (in which she came last) can be discounted as she was a little too rusty following a break of seven months.

Today's selections

2.0 Haydock: Talmada

2.25 Chester: Counter Ridge

2.35 Haydock: Aljamaaheer

3.45 Haydock: Limato

4.10 Chester: Two Jabs

4.45 Chester: Vive Ma Fille

5.20 Chester: Empress Ali (e/w)

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