DONN McCLEAN: Strange that the draw can have such an impact on a race run over two and a quarter miles: a race in which there is just one appreciable turn, and in which there is a 10-furlong home straight.
Last year, the winner Grumeti emerged from stall 15, and the third horse Quick Jack raced from stall 30, but that was a massive performance from a horse who is now rated 11lb higher than he was then. And even last year, three of the first six home raced from stalls three, six and four.
In 2014, the first three home raced from stalls two, 13 and 12. In 2013, three of the first five raced from stalls six, one and seven. In 2012, the first three home raced from one, seven and three. In 2011, Frankie rode a masterclass on Never Can Tell from stall 36, but the next three home raced from two, six and nine. You get the picture. This is all in fields of 36. Stall 12 is in the top one-third, stall 18 is in the top half.
So it could be the universe or the conspiracy theorists balancing things up, giving the two best-handicapped horses in the race, St Michel and Sweet Selection, outside draws. Sweet Selection fared worse than average with stall 23, but St Michel did worse than most with stall 32. If there was a hare rail at Newmarket, Sir Mark Prescott’s horse would be on the far side of it.
There is a chance that the handicapper has over-reacted to the Doncaster Cup form, in giving St Michel 19lb and Sweet Selection 17lb. As it happens, Sweet Selection is the better-handicapped horse now in theory, 17lb well-in, because St Michel has to shoulder an old 4lb penalty, so he is only 15lb well-in. ‘Only’ is a relative term here, obviously. Relative to 17lb and 19lb.
Of course, both horses have big chances. Even if they don’t fully have 15lb and 17lb in hand respectively, they still have plenty in hand, their respective runs in that Doncaster Cup were very good. And both are progressive young stayers who have plenty more to offer.
Of the pair, Sweet Selection may just offer better value at a bigger price. Hughie Morrison’s filly appeared to get a little out-paced when they picked up off a fairly sedate gallop in the Doncaster Cup, and she wasn’t helped when St Michel hung across her. She had proved at Newbury in July that she was at her best when the emphasis was on stamina, and she should get a thorough stamina test today, they usually go for home plenty early in the 10-furlong home straight in the Cesarewitch.
Montaly is also a well-handicapped horse, Andrew Balding’s horse gets in without having to shoulder the 5lb hike with which he was rewarded for finishing second in the Old Borough Cup. He probably should have won the Old Borough Cup, and he probably would have had the winning line been a stride further away from Intense Tango than it was.
He is an improved horse, but you just worry that this test may stretch his stamina beyond its limit. His optimum trip could be a mile and six furlongs, he could stretch out to two miles. But a lung-bursting two and a quarter miles, with no hiding place? He could get it, but he may not, and his draw in stall 24 is not a positive.
By contrast, The Cashel Man should relish this extreme test. Trained by David Simcock (pictured) he was a nicely progressive stayer last season as a three-year-old, winning on the July Course last August, and, after a stop-start beginning this term, his last two runs this season have been most encouraging.
On his penultimate run in a two-mile handicap at York’s Ebor meeting in August, he kept on nicely despite veering to his left to take third place behind Oceane and Nakeeta. Then last time, he stepped forward again, probably putting up the best performance of his career to date in finishing second to Penglai Pavilion in the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket.
Significantly, that was over today’s course and distance. Also significantly, it was on ground that was similar to the ground that he is likely to encounter today, and it was his first time racing in blinkers, which replaced the cheekpieces that he habitually wears. The blinkers are retained today.
He was never going to catch the winner, who was allowed to set his own pace in the Trial, but he stayed on nicely to take second place behind him. Today’s race should suit much better. It should be run at a stronger pace, and that should bring The Cashel Man’s stamina into play.
He is not as well-handicapped as the afore-mentioned trio, but he is still 3lb well-in, he gets to race off his old mark of 89 today, not his new mark of 92. Also, he is well-drawn in stall eight, towards the inside, and William Buick is a significant booking. Buick has never ridden The Cashel Man before, and he has only ridden three horses for Simcock this season, one of which was a winner.
Simcock’s horses are running well, he has had five runners this week and all five have run well in defeat, and it would be surprising if he has not had the Cesarewitch in mind for The Cashel Man for a while. Odds of around 16/1 look more than fair.
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