With Cheltenham behind us, I can now start to focus on the upcoming flat season with the only real interruption being the Grand National in a few weeks. As is tradition, the 32Red Lincoln at Doncaster marks the start of the turf flat season and I’ve been looking at the ante-post market now that the five day declarations are out, with three horses catching my eye at the available prices.
At the head of the market, we have Lord Glitters, Addeybb & Fire Brigade. The first 2 are battling for outright favouritism with current odds no bigger than 8/1 on either. Lord Glitters is from the same yard as last year’s winner Bravery, that of crack northern trainer David O’Meara, & he has some good handicap form in the book.
Since coming over from France last September, he’s run 3 times winning once and twice coming 2nd. He opened with a 2nd over 7 furlongs in a big Ascot handicap & followed it up by winning at the same track over a furlong further off a 5lb lower mark than today’s before stepping up to Listed company. He’s shown a liking for easy ground but his good form has seen him racing off 107 & carrying top weight of 9st10lb (no winner has carried more than 9st4lb, or defied a mark of more than 104).
Addeybb, meanwhile, is a little more unexposed winning 3 of his 5 career starts. Again, he has a liking for soft ground & gets in here off a mark of 99 after winning a Newmarket handicap last September. Ryan Moore was on board that day &, in beating Afaak & Fire Brigade, sets a good standard but I think the extra furlong suited him more. Previous to that he was 3rd in a decent Goodwood handicap & it’s those 2 handicap races that are source of 2 of our 3 ante-post bets.
Fortunately for us, the money for both Lord Glitters & Addeybb has seen the price of my first selection, Fire Brigade, hold firm at around 10/1. His trainer Michael Bell has said for some time that this is his target & conditions look tailor made for him. The likelihood is that Ryan Moore will ride & that’s a further tick in the box. He’s still a 4 year old but has experience with 16 career runs under his belt including 4 wins from 10 runs last term which saw his mark rise by almost 2 stone. That said, based on his last 2 runs of the year, he still has improvement left & I’m convinced he’s destined to progress outside of handicaps in the very near future.
His record on ground with soft in the description reads 1-1-3-1-2-3-1 & the last 3 of those has seen him record RPRs ahead of today’s handicap mark. 2 starts ago, he finished half a length 3rd to Addeybb in that Newmarket race & is 1lb worse off today. However, he was the one most unsuited by ‘wandering left’ inside the final 2 furlongs as he was furthest away from the rail & his run was briefly halted a furlong out.
That said, he hit the front & looked to be the winner until Addeybb fought back inside the last half furlong. Stepping back from 9 furlongs looks to be the right decision. He then went to Leicester & won a Class 2 handicap in some style after being blocked in all the way up the straight. He quickened up in style & won a shade cosily in the end. He has the best in the business doing the steering, he’ll have his ground & rumours are suggesting he’s fit having been laid out for this. I am very sweet on his chances & 10/1 seems to underestimate his chance.
The 2nd of my picks for the first big handicap of the year is Chelsea Lad, who was well touted early on last year for both this race & the Spring Cup at Newbury. Fitness plagued him in the early part of the year but since then, he’s run some cracking races in defeat & his turn is due.
2nd in a Listed handicap at York to subsequent Sussex Stakes winner Here Comes When is as good form as anything on offer here. He was also 4th in the Cambridgeshire & 2nd in the November Handicap so, despite having a 3lb higher mark, his chance looks solid. Again, he will love the likely ground & big fields appear to be his forte; form of 2/17, 9/17, 4/34 & 2/21 support that. The only disappointment was when favourite for a York handicap where he didn’t really get the breaks. When you consider he went off at 7/2 for the Spring Cup at Newbury less than 12 months, has run very well in at least 3 top handicaps since, now has some valuable racecourse experience & has only been raised 5lb in the process, 20/1 looks a ridiculous price.
Finally, I’m taking a chance on big outsider Grey Britain. If the conditions favour front runners, you can’t go far wrong with this incredibly tough horse from the Newmarket stable of John Ryan. 2nd in the Royal Mile at Musselburgh off 97, he’s run well since including winning a listed event at Newmarket but his mark is still just 99.
The piece of form that appeals to me most is when 4th in that Goodwood handicap where Addeybb was just a nose in front. Our selection is a full 6lbs better off today & that is despite setting the pace & coming centre field in the straight when all the action was happening against the rail. The severe headwind only makes that run look even better. Another who likes soft ground; every time he’s raced on it, he’s run well; 4th behind the top class Harry Angel in a Group 2 as a 2 year old, winning that listed event last term & then 4th in that Goodwood handicap. Like stablemate Battle Of Marathon who was 3rd at 50/1 in 2016, he’s been sent to Meydan for a bit of sun & a couple of spins on the track. He didn’t pull up any trees but it will have put him spot on for a tilt at the first big prize of the turf season. I’m happy to take a chance at 40/1.
Back Fire Brigade (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Betfair Sportsbook (¼ odds 1-4)
Back Grey Britain (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 41.00 Betfair Sportsbook (¼ odds 1-4)
Back them here:
Back Chelsea Lad (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 21.00 Bet365 (¼ odds 1-4)