DONN McCLEAN: So the first thing you have to do is figure out how much rain is going to fall on Haydock Park between now and race time. Get that one correct, and figuring out the races becomes a little easier.
They said 4mm initially, which meant that Limato was chosen on Thursday to represent the Henry Candy yard in the Sprint Cup, not Twilight Son. Now they are saying between 8mm and 10mm, and that could wreak havoc with ground conditions and with Sprint Cup running plans.
The weather has a role to play in the destination of the Old Borough Cup too. Of those towards the head of the market, rain would be good for Shrewd and Magic Circle, and it should be fine for Shakopee. It might not be great for Intense Tango, however, given that she probably put up the best performance of her career to date last time at Nottingham on fast ground. Also, she never wanted it to be too soft over hurdles.
Montaly really won’t mind what the weather does, within reason. He goes well on good ground, but he goes well too on good to soft and good to firm. So unless there is a flood or a heat wave overnight, the ground should be fine for him.
Andrew Balding’s horse has a lot more in his favour besides. He has always been a talented middle-distance performer, but, after a season to forget last term, he appears to have progressed again this season. He is in top form and he may be well enough handicapped now to win a valuable prize like this one.
Winner of a good one-and-a-half-mile handicap as a three-year-old two years ago off a mark of 92, you have to put a line through last season for him, his first after he had been gelded. He raced just three times in 2015, and he disappointed on all three occasions, his trainer drawing stumps on his season as early as July.
The son of Yeats did not run so well on his debut this season either at Goodwood in May, which is probably why he was allowed go off at 33/1 for the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot the following month. He shaped much more encouragingly there, however, in finishing fifth of the 20 runners.
He was beaten a total of eight lengths by the winner Jennies Jewel, but he was held up towards the rear of the field through the early stages of that race, a race in which it was probably an advantage to race handily. The winner led just about all the way, and three of the first four home were prominent from early. Also, that two-and-a-half-mile trip probably stretched his stamina beyond its limit.
He stepped forward from that last time over two and a quarter miles at Newbury. He made nice progress from the rear that day, and he travelled like the most likely winner to the two-furlong pole, when he loomed up on the outside of Sea Of Heaven. He traded at 1.4 in-running at that point, but he was ultimately out-stayed by Sea Of Heaven and by the winner Sweet Selection.
Both of those horses have enhanced the form since. Sweet Selection is now rated 5lb higher than she was then, while Sea Of Heaven is now rated 8lb higher. By contrast, Montaly has been left on his mark of 94, and that gives him a real chance of landing a big handicap. He is at least as good as he has ever been, he is possibly better, he looks progressive again now and he is set to race off a handicap rating that is 3lb lower than his peak.
A couple of other things. Firstly, Andrew Balding has his horses in top form. The Kingsclere trainer has had five winners and seven seconds in the last fortnight. Secondly, with David Probert out injured, Oisín Murphy is a top booking. Murphy and Balding obviously go back, and the jockey is riding on the crest of a wave of confidence these days.
Thirdly, the drop back down to a mile and six furlongs should suit Montaly well. He gets a mile and a half well, but he didn’t fully stay two and a half miles or two and a quarter miles on his last two runs, and it may be that a mile and six will prove to be his optimum.
And fourthly and crucially, he goes well at Haydock. In two runs there he has finished second, beaten a half a length, in a good 12-furlong handicap, and he has won another, similar, 12-furlong handicap, a Class 2 event.
He is nicely drawn in stall five and, with prominent racers Blue Rambler and Gold Prince in stalls one and four respectively, he should get a nice tow through the early part of the race.
He will probably travel well up the early part of the home straight, so he should trade at shorter than his SP, if you are into that type of thing. Whether you are or not, odds of around 8/1 about him winning the race look more than fair, and the 2/1 that you can have about him finishing in the first four, as the place part of the each-way bet, is also worth having on side.
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