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Gimcrack Stakes preview

It's a great card at York on Friday with the juvenile race taking some of the spotlight. Dissecting the form for this contest is a newcomer with some very impressive penmanship (or should it be keyboardship these days?). Anyway, please welcome Gary Savage, @chesneywold, to the blog!

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The Gimcrack Stakes at York looks a less than stellar renewal this year, and the race has not had a really top-class winner since Rock of Gibraltar, nevertheless a competitive race is in prospect with eight runners going to post.

Heavy Metal of Mark Johnston is the highest rated horse going in to the race due to his last time out success in the Richmond Stakes. Like last year’s winner Caspar Netscher, Heavy Metal is a highly-experienced colt having already had six runs this year starting with the Brocklesby way back in March. Horses running in that race doesn’t usually end up in late summer Group races but like a lot of his trainer’s charges Heavy Metal is incredibly tough and there is no argument that his last performance, in readily seeing-off Master Of War at Goodwood, was his best yet. Earlier defeats in the Coventry and July Stakes seemed to demonstrate his limitations but the son of Exceed and Excel has won on good to firm going and York’s long straight may well suit his battling front-running style.

Kevin Ryan had a host of five-day entries so his sole entrant Blaine must be taken seriously. The colt is a winner of his only start so far which came over this course and distance a month ago. Ryan took this with Amadeus Wolf in 2005 although that one had more experience than Blaine, but the fact that his trainer has chosen this half brother to Bogart as his representative here may speak volumes, and his course form will stand him in good stead.

Mick Channon’s Cay Verde is another with plenty of experience having had five starts so far in his career. The Qatar Racing colt has shown good form in all of those runs including a defeat of Windsor Castle Stakes winner Hototo on his second start, a Listed win at the Curragh and a decent showing behind Reckless Abandon in the Norfolk (where the reopposing Morawij finished just ahead of him). Last time out Cay Verde was third behind Heavy Metal at Goodwood after hanging throughout much of the latter stages of that race. It could be that that quirky track didn’t suit Channon’s colt and he’s certainly not out of this.

Richard Fahey’s Euxton Hall was fifth in the Richmond, 3 and ¾ lengths behind Heavy Metal and 1 ¼ lengths behind Cay Verde, and is another who has had plenty of experience. He has won twice from five starts and is a freegoing sort who is likely to be at the head of things here, although how long he can stay there is open to doubt. The fact that he was about the same distance behind Richmond runner-up Master of War in his last two starts indicates that he may not be improving and thus may not be able to bridge the gap to Heavy Metal and Cay Verde here.

Noel Quinlan’s Lewisham is the only maiden in the field but is likely to be near the head of the market as he is the second highest-rated in the field. His low-key placed efforts in Newcastle and Doncaster maidens meant that he was sent off at 25-1 for the July Stakes at Newmarket last time. Noel Quinlan’s decision to throw him into a Group Two was justified in some style as his colt was a fast-finishing second to Alhebayeb. Despite the winner’s disappointing effort at Deauville at the weekend the July Stakes run puts Lewisham right in the mix here, although it should be noted that the soft going at Newmarket enabled him to make up ground after a sluggish start and that may not be the case on York’s different track and quicker surface.

Morawij has always been held in high regard and has gone off favourite for three of his four starts. Roger Varian’s colt has won two of those starts and has shown plenty already without quite living up to his billing. Despite two victories and a second place Morawij’s best run was probably his fourth in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot where he had Cay Verde behind him. Last time out Varian’s colt was just caught in the Molecomb by Bungleinthejungle, with the pair readily coming clear of a decent field including Hototo (winner at York Thursday), Dylanbaru and Jadanna. Morawij is clearly a very speedy animal but whether he can hang on at the Knavesmire on his first outing over six furlongs has to be open to doubt.

William Haggas has been the most successful trainer in this contest in recent years with two winners since 2006 and a runner-up in 2009. All of those were more experienced than his entrant this year Odooj, who has only had two starts to date. He won a maiden at Chester very nicely first time and then just got touched off in a tremendous tussle with Flyman at Nottingham last week. Provided he is still improving, and Haggas usually knows what he’s got in this type of contest, then Odooj could get himself into the reckoning here. Nevertheless he is priced up on stable record here (25% with juveniles) rather than form in the book.

Last and almost certainly not least is Richard Hannon’s chosen runner here, Pearl Acclaim. Let’s hope he makes the line-up as his trainer stated after his win on Ripon on Saturday that he wished he had waited for the Gimcrack instead. The win on Saturday was a great performance and Pearl Acclaim was well on top at the line after getting the better of Roger Varian’s previous winner Ashaadd with useful types King Dragon and Luck well beaten. The fact that he is the only runner from the stable that has a handle on pretty much all juvenile form in Britain is tempered only by the knowledge that Hannon has not won the Gimcrack since 2000. The East Everleigh handler has rarely run a good one in this race though and Pearl Acclaim’s liking for top-of-the-ground and recent good form make him a top contender for this race.

Conclusion

This race is being contested by horses with a lot of overlapping formlines and it may be that the one who runs best on the day will come out on top. Heavy Metal’s 3lb penalty won’t make his bid to follow-up his Richmond Stakes win any easier although his style of racing is well suited to this test. William Haggas’ good record in this race makes Odooj worth a second look, but he will have to improve a lot on what he has shown so far, while Blaine is an unknown but highly-respected quantity. Morawij looks very speedy but again looks like going off at a price too short for what he has achieved, while Cay Verde may be able to produce his best form back on a flatter track than Goodwood and outrun his odds (16-1). But the selection has to be the one who has the potential to be a fair bit better than he has shown so far in Pearl Acclaim. His form is already not far behind what is required, and as long as the possible rain does not slow the surface up too much between now and race time Hannon’s colt looks the one to be on.

Pearl Acclaim is 5/1 with BetVictor at time of writing

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