Welcome to our latest column from Scott Armstrong of The Sportsman tipster service.
Each Friday, Scott will be provide us with a rundown of all the best weekend racing action – all the key horses to follow and those to oppose. You can also find a recap from him each Monday on the SBC Blog with his reaction to the weekend’s events. Thorough, frank and not afraid to take a contrary view Scott Armstrong is a racing man whose opinion you can’t afford to be without.
This week Scott is off to racing HQ where he casts his keen eye over all the main runners and riders in the punting minefield that is the Cambridgeshire. Scott sees value with one of John Gosden’s runners, who in racing without an expected 10lb penalty is expected to go very close at a double figure price.
The feature meeting of the weekend without doubt comes from Newmarket with two fillies and mares Group 1 contests – the Cheveley Park and the Sun Chariot. Add to that double the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes and the inimitable Cambridgeshire then punters at the home of racing really are getting their money’s worth.
The Royal Lodge stakes for two-year old colts and gelding’s is a first class line-up with many juveniles putting their reputations on the line. Richard Hannon’s Rockinante deserves his place in pattern company. This son of Rock Of Gibraltar was last seen on track five weeks ago when he disappointed on deeper ground at Deauville in a Listed contest but is expected to bounce back with a bold showing. Ektihaam would be a popular winner under the guidance of Roger Varian after the sad passing of Michael Jarvis this week. Ektihaam is a good prospect, having been very impressive on his two winning runs to date and is considered the main danger to Fencing. John Gosden’s son of Street Cry won at Newbury over 7f last month and with his dam Latice boasting a French Oaks success to her name, Fencing should be better over this extended mile.
The biggest betting heat of the weekend is the Cambridgeshire Handicap a class 2 race over 1m 1f on the Rowley Mile. A wide open cavalry charge with a myriad of runners, this is one fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve. What are the requirements to winning this event? Proven stamina over 1 mile plus is my opening suggestion. Of the last nine winners all had won over a minimum of 1 mile with eight of those nine winners also having won up to 1m 2f. The draw for the race has been subject of many a debate since time immemorial. What is noticeable however is over the past ten years only one winner has come out of a box numbered in single figures with most winners in that period coming from stalls between 17 and 28.
Many top races this year have went to the classic generation and three-year olds have a fine recent record in the Cambridgeshire with two winners in the past five years. The key here is that the juveniles are open to progression with several capable of moving up to group company. I certainly believe the younger unexposed handicappers hold a more compelling case for winning the event than their older counterparts. Now let’s look at the runners.
Dare To Dance is favourite from the Jeremy Noseda yard. Dare To Dance has been very well supported in the ante-post markets and sits at 7-1. Highly progressive and unexposed having only had three outings, he hammered a strong field on his first handicap run over 1m 2f with a striking visual performance. A big negative at the price is his lack of experience. No winner of the Cambridgeshire in recent times has won the race with so few runs and this huge field size may be hard for him to acclimatise to even though they usually break into four separate groups. Before betting on him I would like to see how he handles the preliminaries. There is also a question mark surrounding how he will act if the ground is on the firmer side of good with all three of his runs coming on good-to-soft or soft. He is unquestionably on a decent mark with much more to come but with the question marks I’ve flagged up, he’s not the price I would want.
Second in the betting at 10-1 with Coral is the horse I am siding with, John Gosden’s Questioning under the tutelage of William Buick. Questioning represents the classic generation and posted a smart performance when chasing home King Torus in a Listed race at Haydock last time out having made up a lot of ground. Wearing cheek-pieces for the first time seemed to aid the horses concentration and the fast gallop that is anticipated in the race should suit. The handicapper has seen fit to raise Questioning 10lb for finishing second in the Listed race, but with the Cambridgeshire being an early closing race that penalty cannot be implemented and that could prove a big advantage on Saturday.
Third favourite in the layer’s lists is Roger Charlton’s Cry Fury and his chances must be respected. Disappointing last time out in a Class 2 handicap at Doncaster there can be excuses found in his favour as the race was run at a dawdling pace, a million miles away from the breakneck gallop of a Cambridgeshire. However it does cast a dark cloud hanging over Cry Fury statistically as the last six winners of this race have won or at least been placed in a Class 2 handicap or better.
The next three horses in the betting are Man Of Action, Red Gulch and Sagramor with all being priced between 14-1 and 16-1.
Man Of Action is Godolphin’s leading hope in the race with Frankie Dettori aboard. Strong reports have been emanating from the Al Bahathri Polytrack regarding this horse’s homework. He decisively won a Class 2 handicap at Doncaster two weeks ago though picked up a 4lb penalty for his troubles. A progressive son of Elusive Quality his chance of giving Dettori a first win in the race for 17 years cannot be dismissed.
Red Gulch has been the subject of much attention in the lead up to the race with his price ever contracting. A win for Red Gulch would firmly put the career of first-year trainer Ed Walker on the racing map. This four-year old gelding showed an impressive turn of foot when cruising home in a Class 3 handicap at Goodwood in July. He has subsequently proved himself consistent finishing first and second on his last two outings. Red Gulch shows up well on the ratings, is on a good mark, likes the track and the strong pace will be to his benefit.
Sagramor from Hughie Morrison’s yard has been off the course since the back end of July which doesn’t fit the profile of a Cambridgeshire winner. He has however had a tremendous season with big race wins at Haydock and Royal Ascot recording a personal best run when winning the Brittania Stakes. Although yet to race over further than a mile, if handling the trip Sagramor would hold every chance of being right in the mix.
Further down the betting the best of the rest look to be Albaqaa, Maqaraat, Maraheb, Shavansky and not to forget Nanton of the Jim Goldie yard who always gives 110%.
Scott’s service is one of the many racing and sporting tipsters that we monitor and recommend at the Smart Betting Club.