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Great St Wilfrid Handicap preview

The biggest sprint handicap of the north takes place today at the lovely Ripon track. Lining up to attack this difficult race on his blog debut is Marco Makaveli, best known as@Sir_Back2lay. I think you'll agree it's comprehensive!

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Great St Wilfrid Handicap Preview 2012

As some of you many know from my Lincoln preview back in March, I do use trends when previewing big handicaps no matter what the distance. I don’t follow them religiously or make them my only port of call but they can be a great way to filter out a large field.

· Aged 4 to 7
· Carrying 8-10 to 9-6
· Officially rated 91 to 100
· Run at least 3 times this season
· Won a race this season (or placed in Stewards' Cup)
· Ran in last 20 days in class 3 or higher
· Ran at Newmarket, Goodwood or Haydock last time out
· Won over 6F or further
· CD winners do well
· Drawn 1 to 10
· Trained by Dandy Nicholls (& ridden by A Nicholls), Henry Candy or Clive Cox

So let’s start with the first one … Age 4-7 ….that knocks out Bosun Breeze, Tax Free, Johannes and Regal Parade.

Weights and Ratings can be a funny trend because horses' ratings (Especially RPRs) get higher every season. But sticking to the OR trend that would cancel out Our Jonathan, Secret Witness, Es Que Love, Regal Parade and Colonel Mak.

Course winners and course & distance winners can be vital since Ripon is a very unique course with its undulations but I will go into that in more detail. Anyway this would be a positive for last year’s winner Pepper Lane 3-8, Bosun Breeze 1-3 (only over 5f), Elusive Prince 3-4, Johannes 1-4 and Singeur 1-2.

Won over 6f, now this is a must trend to follow and we can knock 3 off the list instantly. Barnet Fair 0-8 (only placing 8%), Captain Ramius 0-2 (placed 0%) and Singeur 0-16 (placed 19%). If we take Barnet Fair who is currently the 8/1 favourite, he has never won or placed at the track. If we look at his current place market price of 3.5 he would make an excellent place lay.

The draw trend might confuse people because it states most winners have come from stalls 1-10, this may be true but you must remember that the stall numbers have been switched since Ripon is a right handed track just like Ascot or Goodwood. So low numbers are actually high numbers now which leads me nicely into the race….

The main thing to focus on when previewing a sprint at Ripon is to highlight those likely to run from the front run or are usually prominent and up with the pace. So sticking to this angle usually serves well when selecting your bets in large field sprint handicaps at Ripon. Let’s highlight the likely pacesetters in this line up; we have Bosun Breeze (stall 2), Lexi's Hero (stall 20), Louis The Pious (stall 7) and Es Que Love (stall 9).

Now to the negatives with Bosun Breeze who is he is a 5f furlong specialist, so over 6f I don’t really think he will be able to last out the trip but he will however set the pace for those drawn low. Es Que Love is a 3yo but has been holding his form very well in older company; unfortunately he has not been winning and going up the handicap due to his consistency. I believe he is a Group horse but not until next season so he can be passed over even though the Johnston yard have been going so well.

Barnet Fair is a 5f furlong specialist just like Bosun Breeze and he really requires fast ground to be seen at his very best, so I am quite happy to skip on him for reasons given above. Singeur won nicely LTO over the course but that was competing in a 5f contest which was weaker than todays but he does hold some very strong course form, however I do feel he is better over 5f, again this is backed up by the stats above.

Carrying on with the pace angle, at Ripon and especially the St Wilfrid, the rails, either side that is, hold the greatest advantage with those drawn middle having the biggest disadvantage to overcome. As sated earlier Bosun Breeze will make the running for those drawn low which includes Alben Star, who many believe is a Group contender (I am yet to be convinced on this matter), but obviously holds a strong chance, the price is enough to put me off.

Let’s move on to the positive notes and discuss Lexi's Hero who I personally believe holds a strong chance in this race. He ticks all the boxes with weight, draw, running style, handicap mark, ground and trip. After contesting in some competitive races I feel that Lexi's Hero has been set up for such a race, now back down to a winnable mark. From stall 20 I see no reason why he can’t adopt his usual front running tactics and make all down the stands side.

He has no real competition for that role with stable mate Our Jonathan being a hold up type and being slightly too high in the handicap (rated 108) in my opinion and in the trends opinion. Also the 10yo Tax Free who has adopted the front running role before, seems to be too long in the tooth now, again backed up by the trends.

Pepper Lane won this contest last season after racking up a fine run of wins, mainly over the course and distance, but even though she wears a first time hood after a break (classic plot job tactics) her mark is still high enough to be truly competitive.

So who is next, Bertiewhittle has been slowly coming to hand all season but frankly is badly in at the weights with plenty of these, none more so than Lexis Hero! From stall 1 I am more than happy to skip on him.

Secret Witness carries too much weight with Regal Parade being classy in his day but surely getting on now. So we are left with? Seal Rock, well he needs it to be like a bog, Klynch has had a long season and Captain Ramius is too high in the weights.

Johannes won nicely LTO at Goodwood but can he replicate that run again under the same jockey? He is by no means fully out of this at the weights but is not gone to rely on putting good runs back to back. Also the price is not that tempting considering Louis The Pious is better off at the weights.

So which form is strongest? Hawkeyethenoo or Johannes, well they are actually very closely matched so Grissom, who got no sort of run behind Hawkeyethenoo LTO, is massive at 28/1 to place at the very least.

Conclusion:
Lexi's Hero ran on the stands side LTO at Goodwood, which ended up being a disadvantage, but still showed up well for most of the way. This horse is a moody front runner which means he likes his own way up front. With very little competition for the lead I feel he can kick on and hold on for the win or a place. If anything he is a great back to lay option for in-running traders after hitting at least 50% of his SP a massive 16-21 times.

Grissom was blocked several times LTO and is a few pounds better off with the market principles so he has to come into the reckoning. He has a poor record of 0-3 at Ripon, placing 33% of the time but at his current price of 28/1 I feel he is worth chancing for the place alone.

Dangers come in the shape of Colonel Mak who has not had a mention as of now but is a strong contender with his likeable attitude. Louis The Pious has a big race in him but his attitude has to come into question after watching some of his runs. Currently 12/1 I feel he is too short to take a gamble on but must be strongly considered along with Alben Star.

A tricky and competitive sprint handicap contest with several trends to consider, but as always I am going for the value play.

Plays:
15:30 Ripon – Lexi's Hero @ 14/1 (back to lay option) & Grissom @ 28/1 with a saver on Louis The Pious @ 12/1

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