DAQMAN IS FORCED TO TAKE IT ON THE NOSE AT 8-1: Daqman opposed one odds on favourite, the well-beaten Reverend Jacobs, but the flop of another one, Machell Place, knocked out his supernap yesterday. Mukhayyam (2ND 8-1) led everywhere but the line, beaten a nose in a photo finish at Pontefract, in a game attempt to save the bacon.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SHERGAR CUP: Again today, Daqman tries to pick one at each Flat turf meeting. He’s hoping the Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday has a full turn-out. It may not be the lottery on the day that is suggested by the musical-saddles scenario. His reasoning starts off today’s column.


Get ready for jockey bingo on Saturday! In the annual Shergar Cup match, teams of riders for England, Europe and the Rest of the World will be allocated their rides by secret ballot.

Not even the jockeys know which horse they will partner until the day before. And only rarely, by chance, has any of them sat on the horse before in public.

It’s a crazy enough scenario for punters, guessing which rider will be best suited to his or her horse, and which ones can best handle the track.

But it’s the draw for stalls positions that takes place in a further lottery which can be vital. Just how vital is revealed here in my stats.

It’s an entire weekend in which I usually lean heavily on the draw to make my selections but, unfortunately, very poor fields at Musselburgh tomorrow have left only one race with enough runners to bet the bias.

The Curragh on Sunday is also a meeting where results can be decided by stalls position, including the featured Phoenix Stakes, the Group 1 for two-year-olds which I discussed in this column yesterday.

4.40 Musselburgh, Friday:
All six winners of this handicap have been drawn 1 to 5.

1.05 Ascot, Saturday:
Five out of six winners of the Shergar Cup Dash have been drawn 7 or higher.

2.15 Ascot, Saturday:
Eight out of 10 winners of the Shergar Cup Challenge have been drawn in the hot stalls group 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9.

2.50 Ascot, Saturday:
The last three winners of the Shergar Cup Mile have all come out of stall 12.

3.25 Ascot, Saturday:
The last eight winners of the Shergar Cup Classic have been drawn 5, 6, 7, 8.

3.35 The Curragh, Sunday:
The last six winners of the Phoenix Stakes have come out of stalls 2, 3, 4 and 5.


3.30 Brighton (Challenge) I wouldn’t have picked the Brighton Mile winner yesterday, even if the other jockeys were riding from the stalls blindfold!

Aged 11, never been to Brighton before in 76 starts, mounted on the course, taken down early, unfancied at 16-1, with a boy on board.

But a sudden dip in the weights, down to 12lb lower than last autumn, plus the boy’s 3lb claim, was enough to unbalance the handicap in Pastoral Player’s favour.

Could it happen in the Challenge? The nine-year-old Whinging Willie is a pound lower now than when winning in this grade at Epsom last autumn, though still 4lb higher than for his CD success here at Brighton, also at this level, a year earlier.

The difference between the two races is that one was on heavy, one run on firm; so he wouldn’t mind the rain that’s promised from France.

Connections of the favourite, Ashington, up in weight and grade, will be hoping the ground remains firm. The Otmoor Poet is one of three maidens in the race.

Cheeky Rascal is a bridesmaid with eight times placed from 13 races, without winning. Henry Croft is also a maiden and there was a gap of three years between stablemate River Dart’s last two wins.

Mark Johnston has won the Challenge twice in the last three years with second-season animals.

His three-year-old this time is Dr Richard Kimble, who has slipped back to a pound below his last success on a similar merry-go-round track.

So no more whingeing about my 8-1 nosing out yesterday, as I oppose the favourite and bet 6.0 Dr Richard Kimble and 23.0 Whinging Willie. Let it rain!


4.10 Haydock This class 2 stands out in a day of low-grade racing but are these fillies really this level?

In fact, only Under The Covers has won at this grade, but that’s why she is burdened with top weight of 10st.

She’s out quickly after scoring at Goodwood but that didn’t prevent her landing back-to-back wins even closer together last August.

Zip Along goes for a hat-trick, up two grades. Maid In India tried the same thing on the last day but was found out after class 4 and 5 successes, one of them on today’s course. Yet another dual winner, Show Stealer, also failed to make a similar step up off the back of a double.

Magical Dreamer aimed even higher after two out of two in June, taken off her feet in a Group 3 on the last day.

Magical Dreamer is a ‘windmill’, a tail swisher but it didn’t stop her leading all the way in one race then coming from behind in another, so she is clearly a willing animal: 6.6 in the BETDAQ orange this morning.

Gorgeous Noora has tried this level before, one-paced at York after a class-4 success on AW. She scored sweetly on the last day but beat animals of a lower grade.


8.05 Leopardstown (Ballyroan Stakes) This is a real jockeys’ test, with three horses racing off ratings of 108 (Yucatan), 107 (Stella Mass) and 106 (Ezirya).

Dermot Weld has had a patchy few weeks, a shadow of his former self at Galway, and Ezirya hasn’t been seen for 334 days.

So it may be a question of whether, blinkered to race and hooded to load, Yucatan (‘a lazy bones,’ says trainer Aidan O’Brien) can be persuaded to hold on to his length superiority at the Curragh over Stellar Mass, who is now getting 3lb.

In a similar situation last year, Stellar Mass came to this race from finishing two lengths down in the Curragh Cup, but finished only third.

So I shall rely on Donnacha O’Brien to land me a nap here, though super, I don’t think. Ezirya was pressing him in the markets this morning. Any other year, we’d have said ‘Weld coup with hidden horse’; we’ll see.


7.10 Sandown A disappointing card. Mister Ambassador won a nothing race on the lst day, and Jack Regan, who travelled so well in the hood at Nottingham, is challenging him for favouritism in the BETDAQ orange this morning.

Knight Errant (6.2 offers) has won two races for an apprentice and the step up in class could be effected by the booking of Silvestre De Sousa.


3.30 Brighton (win 30 and win 20)
BET 1pt win and place WHINGING WILLIE

4.10 Haydock (win 30)

7.10 Sandown (win 20)

8.05 Leopardstown (win 20)
BET 10pts win (nap) YUCATAN

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