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Saturday Racing Review

Hi all,

Inside today’s main piece I’m reviewing an exciting Saturday of racing at Ayr & Newbury.

It was an exciting Saturday for racing enthusiasts across both codes. At Newbury, the Greenham Classic-Trials card took centre stage, while up at Ayr, it was Scottish Grand National Day, featuring the ongoing battle for the trainers' championship among Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, and Dan Skelton.

I’ll start my Saturday Racing Review on the flat at Newbury.

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Newbury: Greenham Meeting

The drying trend persisted on Saturday, resulting in ground conditions that were close to good for Greenham Day.

Arrest, last season’s St Leger runner-up, was a significant market drifter in the pre-race betting for the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes. This proved accurate as he finished a disappointing 7th. Punters instead favoured the 8-year-old Hamish, who justified the favoritism with a cosy victory from Al Qareem and Salt Bay. Hamish, well-campaigned by trainer William Haggas, secured his eighth Group 3 win and his fifth on the trot.

Elmalka Fred Darling Eyecatcher

In the first of Newbury’s Classic Trials, the Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes, Folgaria emerged victorious. Although often touted as a crucial trial for the 1,000 Guineas, it's been a while since a winner of the race went on to succeed in the first fillies' classic, and this year's winner won’t break that trend.

Folgaria, unbeaten on five starts when trained in Italy, made a winning debut for Marco Botti, displaying grit to hold off a rallying Regal Jubilee and a strong finishing Elmalka. The winner is not entered in the 1,000 Guineas and is expected to target the French equivalent.

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Like plenty of the Gosden horses Regal Jubilee ran like the race was needed and will also be suited by a return to a mile.

Elmalka, relatively inexperienced with just one start as a juvenile, finished strongly and should relish the step up to a mile. The daughter of Kingman looks the one to take out of the race and there’s a Group race in the filly if she builds on this performance. Elmalka has a 1.000 Guineas entry, is bred to win a Classic and could get into the money if she was line-up at Newmarket

Relief Rally, the 7/4 favourite, disappointed. Despite being a strong finisher at 6f as a juvenile, she struggled with the extra furlong here and effort flattened out inside the final furlong. It's likely she'll return to sprinting, but it's doubtful she'll reach the same level of performance as she did last season.

Esquire Wins Poor Greenham

City of Troy won’t be having any sleepless nights after Saturday’s Group 3 Greenham Stakes. The race hasn’t been much of a guide to finding the winner of the 2,000 Guineas since Frankel won the race in 2011.

This year’s winner Esquire caused a bit of surprise being returned 16/1 and has no chance of winning the first colts classic. The reason he has no chance of winning is he’s a gelding so can’t run in the 2,000 Guineas.

It was a much-improved performance by Esquire in victory. However, it had looked the worst renewal of the race I can remember, and I saw nothing in the race to change that view.

Merchant Shows His Metal

Newbury big betting race the Spring Cup went the way of useful handicapper Metal Merchant (12/1), trained by Jack Channon. There were several horses behind the winner who look capable of winning races. The lightly raced Godwinson (11/2 fav), trained by William Haggas, came in for good support and went down by ½ length. Held up in the rear, the 4-year-old was ridden with plenty of confidence and but for a bit of greenness might well have won. He’s clearly started off in handicap company on a good mark and will win races.

Other to note from the race are the fifth Bill Silvers and sixth Dancing Magic. Bill Silvers did best of those who race stands side. He was having only his fifth start and may prove better on softer ground or over a bit further. There should be more to come from the 4-year-old this season. Dancing Magic has an official rating of 96 but he remains a maiden after 12 starts. He’s been highly tried in his career to date, and this was just his second run in a handicap. Gelded at the end of last season the 4-year-old travelled through the race as well as anything. He will surely lose his maiden status before too long, most likely on quicker ground.

Trainers Championship Tussle Makes Ayr a Better Meeting

While some punters may not have been as enthralled by the trainers' championship race, I find it to be a thrilling conclusion to the jumps season. With Mullins aiming for a Vincent O'Brien-like feat, Nicholls vying to match Martin Pipe's record, and Skelton pursuing his first championship, the competition has intensified. Each yard's jockeys, owners, and stable staff straining every sinew to claim the prize, adding an extra layer of excitement to the Ayr meeting.

Despite Sandown offering substantial prize money next Saturday, Mullins has taken a significant step toward clinching the trainers' trophy following four wins at Ayr on Saturday. It was unbelievable day for Mullins and another poor day for British racing.  Given the prize money on offer at the meeting I have no doubt Mullins will be back next April.

Macdermott Triumphs in Scottish Grand National, Edging Out Surrey Quest in Thrilling Finish

One of those four Mullins winners came in the Coral Scottish Grand National courtesy of Macdermott.  

Midweek Macdermott had been the 7/1 favourite, but he was weak on the day and ended up being returned at 18/1. Whilst he was a poor price at 7/1, odds of 18/1 were too generous considering he was unexposed over marathon trips and who trained him.

It’s probably sacrilege to say it but I thought this year’s Scottish Grand National was a much better spectacle than last Saturday’s race at Aintree.

There was a significant pre-race gamble on Mr. Vango, who was sent off as the 4/1 favourite. He set a good pace early on but weakened after being headed five out.

Macdermott, jumped well throughout the race and appeared poised for a comfortable victory after taking the lead four out. However, as they approached the final fence, Surrey Quest emerged as a strong challenger. In a thrilling finish, Surrey Quest rallied strongly, ultimately losing out to Macdermott by just a nose.

It was a heartbreak for me, as I had tipped Surrey Quest at 40/1 as one of my Victor Value selections in the race. It's frustrating, especially considering I didn't tip him each way, which, looking back, seems irrational. But it is what it is.

The well touted Git Maker couldn’t live with front two from three out but stayed on well enough to finish third. It was a good effort considering it was said he didn’t like to be crowded in his races.

In addition to the winner Willie Mullins also trained the fourth, fifth and sixth.  Macdermott was the first Irish trained winner of the race since 1869.

Saturday Verdict:

Despite a successful week at Cheltenham and Newmarket with winners at 6/1, 8/1, and 10/1, Saturday was frustrating. Besides Surrey Quest agonising defeat in the Scottish National, I also had the third in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the fourth in Newbury’s big betting race the Spring Cup. I won't let my personal disappointment detract from what was an overall fantastic Saturday of racing.  

Tomorrow I'll wrap up my review of last week's racing by focusing on Newmarket's Craven Meeting. Additionally, I'll highlight a couple of potential future winners from the meeting.

Monday Preview:

While I initially considered skipping Monday's racing, the promising weather forecast has prompted me to attend Pontefract races this afternoon. It's worth noting that if you're an OAP, you can gain free entry to the meeting. With eight races on the card, it promises to be a value day.

Pontefract's Draw Bias:

Last week, I shared an insightful article from Matt Bisogno & Dave Renham about draw biases. In the article they highlighted Pontefract’s 5f/6f and 1 mile draw bias. According to their analysis, being with the leader or a low-drawn stalker tends to be advantageous in sprint handicaps. Taking this into account, let's focus on the concluding 5f handicap race (5:30) on today's card.

Race Analysis:

5:30 – With just nine runners declared for this sprint handicap, the lack of early speed is notable. Speedacus (Stall 2) emerges as the likely pace-setter, despite being out of form. However, it's worth noting that all three of the 5-year-old's career wins have come with the visor, which makes a return for the first time under trainer John Butler.

Herakles, a dual all-weather winner, is likely to stalk the pace from stall 1. Although he was narrowly beaten at Newcastle 14 days ago, his previous encounter with Speedacus at Leicester suggests he may struggle to reverse form if that one was to bounce back to form.

Showalong, drawn in stall six, finished a respectable 2nd of 10 in last year's race and is 5lb lower now. He may still have needed his run at Thirsk 13 days ago. If he can get a handy position behind the leader, is a contender.

Verdict: While I'm still deliberating on my approach to the race, I'm talking myself into a small bet on Speedacus, with a potential saver on Showalong, depending on the latter’s odds.

Additionally, for the mile handicaps on the card, focusing on the lowest four stalls could prove beneficial.

Good luck with your Monday bets.

John

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