It’s that time of year when the flat and jumps seasons begin to gently overlap and Saturday’s action will suit punters who like to plant a foot in both camps. The Cesarewitch Stakes is the most-famous contest taking place and Seymour Biz is backing a canny Irish trainer to saddle back-to-back winners. Here are his Lucky 15 selections. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
The autumn leaves are falling now and the flat season has only a couple of weeks to hold the punters and television’s interest. We have Champions Day at Ascot next week with its huge prize money on offer and Doncaster’s Futurity meeting the week after, which coincides with Cheltenham’s first meeting of the year and Aintree’s initial meeting the following day, then the jump season will really have arrived. As to this Saturday, ITV have overlooked a fine NH meeting at Chepstow which many consider to be the beginning of the season in the UK. Instead they have focused their full attentions on Newmarket and York with each providing the Saturday punter with one decent handicap each. Newmarket gives us the Cesarewich, a race this year that has failed to attract its full complement of 36 entrants and York has the Coral Sprint, but there is a distinct end of term feel about the whole proceedings. All the top trainers send out some of their best 2-year-olds at Newmarket in three televised races with Charlie Appleby’s Pinatubo being the most exciting. He is a very short price to win the Dewhurst, as to the other two races it is worth watching the betting as the favourites will be there or thereabouts. But there is still some value to be had amongst the televised meetings and here are my thoughts for this week’s Lucky Fifteen.
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Beginning with the 2.40 at York, the Coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes over 6f. Tim Easterby has won this race twice in the last five years and has the hot favourite this year with Lampang. His colt won by five lengths at Ripon last time and is now unbeaten after two starts which is the reason he is highly fancied here. But I don’t think he will have things all his own way as several of these 2-year-olds have grown up in the last couple of months since they last ran. One of these is Yorkshire Gold from Kevin Ryan’s yard who, after winning on his debut in heavy ground, came here to York to run in the Acomb Stakes. He could finish only seventh that day over 7f and the drop back in trip and some give in the ground could help. Michael Bell runs Stone Circle, a dual winner this year, the latest at the Curragh where he beat 25 rivals in a close finish. Misty Grey was only beaten a nose last time at Doncaster and Mark Johnson’s colt comes here after a month’s break to try to get off the mark. He could well run into a place at a nice price but I will take Yorkshire Gold, a popular named contender, to upset the favourite.
At 3.15 it’s the Smart Money’s On Coral Handicap which has a very poor turnout of only 7 runners. John Gosden has the favourite here with Harrovian who has won twice this season latterly at Yarmouth but he is stepping up in class here. Top weight is Richard Fahey’s Forest Ranger who seems to be pretty high in the handicap to me. He was behind Big Country who reopposes here and I expect Michael Appleby’s gelding to confirm those placings. Dark Vision ran well in the Cambridgeshire for trainer Mark Johnson when he finished sixth, but he has failed to get his head in front this year. Andrew Balding’s Johnny Drama had his best run of the season here at York two starts ago when going down to Forest Of Dean after trying to make all. He finished in front of Victory Command that day but Mark Johnson’s colt got his revenge when they both finished down the field at Newbury in September. I feel Johnny Drama needs some cut in the ground and will get that on Saturday enabling him to show his best form.
The Coral Sprint Trophy Handicap is at 3.50 and there is a fine turnout for this 6f sprint. The bookmakers choice here is William Haggas’s Aplomb on the strength of his fine second to Tinto at Ascot last week. He has run consistently this season and has two victories to his credit but he has yet to win at this grade. Danzeno has top weight and I’m sure trainer Michael Appleby is glad his gelding is not coming up against Dakota Gold again after going down to him twice on his last two outings. But he has only ever won on good or good/firm going and the going is currently declared as soft for Saturday. Hey Jonesy is high in the weights but he has been running in races of a better class than this. He ran poorly in the Ayr Gold Cup but connections stated he lost a shoe during the race. But that contest seems to be the answer to this with several protagonists having run there. Richard Fahey’s Growl was second at Ayr and won at Ripon in August, he is a very honest campaigner, but the third horse at Ayr has a 5lb pull on him here. That horse is David O’Meara’s Gulliver, a course and distance winner, whose Ayr run followed up a fine third place at the Curragh in September. During his win here at York in June he beat plenty of the horses he will meet here, he is well handicapped and will relish the going.
The big handicap of the day is at Newmarket at 4.10, the Emirates Cesarewitch Stakes over 2m 2f so it is targeted by several leading jump trainers. It was won last year by Willie Mullins and he has this year’s highly fancied favourite with Buildmeupbuttercup and the mare must have every chance on form. She was second at Royal Ascot where she beat Time To Study and Coeur De Lion then she went to Galway and won there in July. She had a prep run for this in September finishing second at Leopardstown and will be trained to the minute. Mullins has a couple of other runners declared and Great White Shark looks the best of them after her victory at Galway in July. Aidan O’Brien sends Cypress Creek who ran in the Irish St Leger but the grey hasn’t had the greatest of build ups. There is a lot being made that Sir Mark Prescott has never won this prestigious race and he has a pair of challengers that maybe out to redeem that fact. Land Of Oz is a course and distance winner but carries a 7lb penalty for his latest win here last month and Timoshenko who was unbeaten in five starts last year and won on his only outing this year at Goodwood. Prescott has had this race in mind for both horses for some time and my preference is for Timoshenko but he may have to give way to the Mullins mare. Looking for a lively outsider I will put up Time To Study who rallied to win at Haydock on soft last time, he should get the extra four furlongs and could run into a place at a nice price.
Lucky 15 Picks
2.40 York. Yorkshire Gold
3.15 York. Johnny Drama
3.50 York. Gulliver
4.10 Newmarket. Buildmeupbuttercup