Three selections from a good day of racing at Ascot and Haydock.
Ascot 3:30 – Café Society
This looks a very competitive handicap with a number of unexposed progressive handicappers such as Special Meaning and Elhaame. However one horse in this race appeals as the type to prove quite some way ahead of the handicapper as he develops. The horse in question is the David Simcock trained Café Society who has shaped like he is much better than a strict reading of his form.
This big scopey son of Motivator was 3rd at Newmarket in a very good handicap on his 3rd run, before winning comfortably off a mark of 76 at Salisbury in June. The manner in which he tracked the pace that day before quickening inside the final furlong was very impressive and when he reappeared off an 8lb higher mark at Ascot next time, he was a well backed 9/2 against a progressive horse from the Sir Michael Stoute yard. On this occasion Jamie Spencer adopted the same tactics but got caught in a pocket along the rail and was left with nowhere to go well inside the final furlong. When he finally got in the clear he came home very strongly to be denied by a neck. He was raised 5lb for that effort but should be well capable of defying this revised mark.
The strong pace that looks assured (Special Meaning is likely to take them along but there will be plenty of pace up front) should very much suit Café Society as he will be able to track this pace and be delivered late to exploit his turn of foot. Martin Lane replacing Jamie Spencer is also a positive as he will wait long enough before asking Café Society to go and win his race, without trying to be too cocky, which the former can be guilty of.
Café Society appeals as a horse that will continue progressing as he fills his frame and looks the type that will be a listed class 4 year old or a very exciting jumper if that is the route that is taken with him. He can prove all of this to be correct tomorrow and 5/1 looks reasonable value on him.
Haydock 2:40 – Tawhid
It is still uncertain just how soft the ground is likely to be at Haydock tomorrow but in all probability it will be it will be testing as it was on the easy side on Friday and quite a bit more rain is forecast before racing begins on Saturday.
All of this should be very much in favour of the Saeed Bin Suroor trained Tawhid. He looked a very high class 2 year old on soft ground last year when bolting up in his maiden at Salisbury and then trouncing his opponents in the Group 2 Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury in October. He took an age to come to himself this year and ran no sort of race at the Craven meeting at Newmarket in April. However he has improved as the season has progressed and has run 3 very solid races on his last 3 runs, when 3rd in the Jersey Stakes, 2nd to Montiridge in the Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and then 3rd to Gregorian in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury 3 weeks ago.
He strictly has a bit to find with Montiridge based on the Goodwood run (even though he is 4lb better off) but he will relish the testing conditions on Saturday and should improve significantly for them, while it is doubtful that his old rival will be as effective on the wet sod as he is on fast summer ground.
The rest of the field look to have something to find and Tawhid looks a rock solid each way bet at 9/2 with William Hill and Betfred. He looks sure to be in the first 3 places but certainly carries high expectations from us that he can win this contest.
Haydock 3:50 – Intense Pink
This is very much a selection based on the ground being very testing tomorrow (and by the time this race is run, we will hopefully have pocketed some winnings from Tawhid due to the ground conditions) as based on a strict reading of the form, Chris Wall’s filly has quite a bit to find to figure in the finish of this contest. However there is such an absence of soft/heavy ground form in this field and very little indication that most of the main protagonists will be effective on a testing surface that this looks a race ripe for an upset.
Intense Pink has shown that he is very much at home when the ground is soft and could be more so when the mud is flying. She is a high class filly but is probably Group 3 standard under normal circumstances. Her 2013 reappearance in the Group 3 Chartwell Fillies Stakes at Lingfield was hugely promising as he looked to led from the start and looked set to win at the furlong marker before a combination of a lack of race sharpness and being taken on for the lead (rather than being allowed a solo in front) by Hard Walnut meant that she tired in the closing stages. It was still an effort that justified the rating of 104 that she was assigned afterwards.
She was predictably outclassed when pitched in against a number of these rivals in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot but despite finishing 12th, she ran a solid race and was tenderly handled by Seb Sanders in the final furlong. This race was run on good to firm ground and we are not suggesting for one minute that she is up to beating these rivals on a fast surface.
However the Group 1 sprints of the past 20 years contain many examples of shock results when the ground deteriorates, and unlikely heroes such as My Best Valentine in the 1998 Prix De L’Abbaye are forever etched in our memory. The most recent Group 1 UK sprint, the Nunthorpe at York (good to soft conditions) was won by 40/1 rag Jwala, who had more to find on form than Intense Pink does on Saturday.
The only others that promise to handle/enjoy this testing surface are Garswood, Hoof It and possibly Slade Power. However Garswood is stepping down in trip and is very short in the market as conditions have been factored in, Hoof It is woefully out of form and it is really speculation based on average listed form in Ireland as to just how well Slade Power will enjoy the conditions.
This is very much a speculative bet and it depends a great deal on the forecast rain materialising but there is a strong possibility that the many of these horses could run between 5lb and 7lb below their best while Intense Pink could improve by 5lb or more when faced with demanding conditions. This makes the 50/1 available with Coral worth taking to small stakes.
1 pt each-way Café Society to win the Ascot 3.30 at 5/1 (bet365, Stan James)
1.5 pts each-way Tawhid to win the Haydock 2.40 at 9/2 (William Hill, Betfred)
0.5 pts each-way Intense Pink to win the Haydock 3.50 at 50/1 with Coral