DONN McCLEAN: So what are you looking for when you are looking for a potential Cambridgeshire winner? You’re looking for a potentially well-handicapped horse for starters, that goes without saying. A horse who has the potential to go 6lb or 7lb or 8lb higher than the mark off which he races today.
The stats tell you that you want a horse who is not too high in the weights, but not too low, who comes into the race in good form and who is proven over at least nine furlongs. And this year, you want a horse who will not run scared of good, fast ground.
Bravo Zolo has a lot of those attributes. He finished second in the Lincoln back in early April in a race that was not run to suit. He raced prominently and towards the far side that day in a race in which it was probably an advantage to be held up towards the near side.
He struck the front fully two furlongs from home, he had to go for home on the far side, he had to do a lot of his own running over there. But he looked a likely winner inside the furlong marker before Secret Brief finished with a rattle down the near side to beat him by a half a length. Even so, Jeremy Noseda’s horse kept on well enough to retain second place from Battle Of Marathon and Birdman, both of whom came late down the near side.
The handicapper raised Bravo Zolo just 2lb for that. It brings him up to a mark of 103, which is just on the cusp, you wouldn’t want to be much higher, and it means that he has 9st 3lb to carry today, which is also as high as you would want. However, he can be marked up by at least that 2lb for his run in the Lincoln, given that the race was not run to suit, and he has the potential to progress again. He is only four, and he has raced just 10 times in his life and just four times on turf. It is probable that we have not seen the best of him yet.
As well as that, he was racing on unsuitably soft ground in the Lincoln. We know that he goes well on all-weather surfaces – his record on all-weather reads 111231 – but his trainer says that he is at his best on fast turf. So the dry spell this week, and the fact that Newmarket supremo Michael Prosser said that they would not water overnight, is all in his favour.
The nine-furlong trip should be ideal. He stayed the mile well in the Lincoln, and he had won a nine-and-a-half-furlong handicap at Wolverhampton on his previous run off a mark of 97. He has pace and he has the stamina for this trip.
It is not ideal that he has not run since the Lincoln, but you have to think that Jeremy Noseda has had the race at least in the back of his mind for his horse for a while. And the trainer said about three weeks ago that the Cambridgeshire was the plan for Bravo Zolo, as long as the ground did not come up too soft.
Also, the fact that he hasn’t run since early April means that his handicap mark remains at 103. It could have gone higher if he had run since.
Jeremy Noseda’s horses are in good form, he has had two winners from just five runners in the last two weeks, and Frankie Dettori is an excellent booking. Dettori rides Newmarket very well, and he continues to ride out of his skin. He has had 12 rides at the Cambridgeshire meeting so far, and he has ridden three winners, two seconds and two thirds, with two of the winners going off at SPs of 16/1 and 14/1 respectively.
Third Time Lucky is a worthy favourite. Richard Fahey’s horse won the race last year, so that puts a lot of the imponderables – track, distance, time of year – to bed.
Raised 7lb for that win, he ran poorly on his first two outings this term, but he ran really well last time at York, when he would have finished better than fifth, possibly third, had he not been hampered inside the final furlong.
He was dropped 2lb by the handicapper for his first two runs, so he gets to race off a mark of 100 today, just 5lb higher than last year’s Cambridgeshire mark, when he won the race. And, hey presto, Adam McNamara takes off 5lb.
Of course, the claim is supposed to compensate for the rider’s inexperience, in theory, but McNamara is top value for his 5lb claim, as he proved when he won the Ebor on Heartbreak City.
It’s just that Third Time Lucky is short, and he does not have as much scope for progression as he had coming into the race last year.
You can make your shortlist as long as you like. Spark Plug stayed on well to take fourth place in that one-mile handicap at York last time, just in front of Third Time Lucky and less than two lengths behind the winner Firmament, who was high in the ante post betting for the Cambridgeshire after that race. There is surely another big handicap in Brian Meehan’s horse, and he could progress from that York run.
Banksea was only caught close home by Can’t Change It at Doncaster last time and is 1lb well-in today, while Knight Owl was only just beaten by Treasury Notes at Ripon last time. James Fanshawe’s horse is 2lb well-in, he is 4lb better off with Treasury Notes, and he is a winner over the Cambridgeshire course and distance.
The draw is a bit of an unknown, it looks like a lot of the pace is drawn low, so it may not be an advantage for Bravo Zolo that he is drawn high. That said, history tells us that there is no major draw thing in the Cambridgeshire, so best to concentrate on some of the other elements, the elements on which you can place a value. Bravo Zolo has a lot of those elements in his favour, and he could run a big race.
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