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Epsom Dash preview

Also on the card at Epsom is the Dash, a mad sprint down the hill, in front of the roaring/drunken crowd (where I'll be today, in the car park at about the 3f pole). It's always a tricky race to decipher, so I've enlisted the help of Lee Murray, a very astute judge of horse flesh, as you'll see below. It's his first time on the blog, so welcome aboard! You can follow him on @LeeAMurray.

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3.15 EPSOM
Investec Specialist Bank "Dash" (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+)


The dash. A field of twenty runners. The fastest five furlong race in the world. It's fair to say blink and you'll miss these. The equine versions of Usain Bolt? Not quite. More your Asafa Powells who are not quite up to Olympic gold (group) standards, but not far off it. Either way, it leaves us with an intriguing - and rather large - puzzle to pick apart.

With a number of these rivals reopposing - including last years surprise 50/1 winner Stone Of Folca - we have a number of interesting form lines to look through and a number of them with course form that is also worth a considerable mention.

Personally, I have Epsom ranked alongside tracks like Chester and York on the flat, and places like Cheltenham over jumps, in the very sense that the place is a law unto itself where form is concerned. The more, and better, previous course form a runner has on offer, the more I would upgrade that horses chances, more so than at flatter, more 'neutral' venues. Epsom and her undulating downs certainly take some getting for runners making their bow at the course and whoever created the saying "horses for courses" probably had somewhere like Epsom in mind whilst doing so.

Let's look at the main players -

Captain Dunne (11/2)
Tim Easterby - David Allan

One of two Middleham Park runners in the race and also one of two Tim Easterby charges to line-up. The winner of this race in 2011 and only beaten by a head, once again in this race in 2009, he finished down the field in ninth (out of twenty) last year and followed that up with a number of other disappointing efforts which has seen his mark slip to a very handy 95. The last time he ran here off that mark he won the race. His course and distance form is a huge plus, as is his very encouraging seasonal reappearance at Chester latest. Will run his race and if he puts his best foot forward and comes on for the run at Chester, it's hard to see him not hit the frame.
Likes to lead so those of you who like to trade in-running, it's certainly worth looking at a back to lay with this one.

Duke Of Firenze (6/1)
Sir Michael Stoute - Ryan Moore
This chestnut son of Pivotal looks revitalised since being dropped back to the minimum trip by Sir Michael Stoute when running out a ready winner of a class three, 0-95 handicap at Goodwood on his second start of the season (and first over 5f). He was raised six pounds for that effort, to an official mark of 97 and followed it up with a better-than-bare-form suggests fifth place (of nineteen), in class two company at York. He didn't get a clear run that day and you could argue he at least collects each-way money if he had. He runs off the same mark here and you can't ignore his claims. It is also impossible to ignore anything Ryan Moore sits on at the moment. Short of physically picking the horses up and carrying them over the line, he could not be giving any more positive assistance from the saddle than he is currently doing at the moment.
No course form to speak of, but he's at home in this grade and may even be slightly ahead of the handicapper judging by his run at York, will enjoy the expected good ground and a player.

Long Awaited (8/1)
David Barron - Richard Hughes
Another son of Pivotal who had a highly encouraging campaign as a four-year-old, winning over course and distance here back in August. He looked a completely different horse last year once fitted with blinkers - climbing the handicap ranks from a mark of 85 to his current one of 95 that he runs off here - and he is once again fitted with the headgear. He has won twice before after a lay-off so his time away from the track is not a concern and it isn't inconceivable that he could defy his mark and run into the places. The form of the David Barron yard, along with their record in these sort of handicaps, is also in this horses favour.

Stone Of Folca (11/1)
John Best - Steve Drowne

The surprise 50/1 winner of this last year and the defending champion. Not only did he win it, he smashed the course record in the process. Proving it was no fluke, he ran a fair race in a group two at Goodwood behind the Australian double-winning raider Ortensia.
Interesting to note that he has not had a prep run for this race and has won on his seasonal reappearance in both of the last two years. Only three pounds higher than his mark that he won this race off and if the ground carries on drying out as expected, he could yet again be battling for the prize money. It will be no 50/1 shock this time if he is.

Ajjaadd (15/1)
Ted Powell - Kieran O'Neill
This Elusive Quality gelding is another of these that has course and distance form to his name having won a class three handicap here back in April, beating La Fortunata - who reopposes getting a one pound pull in the weights today - by a short head. Raised another four pounds for that win to a mark of 99, my concern with him is that he's getting very close to the ceiling of his ability, and although course and distance form counts for a lot around here, I would be looking to take him on, most likely in the place market, laying at odds of around (7/2).

Confessional (18/1)
Tim Easterby - Silvestre De Sousa
The second of the Tim Easterby representatives who is an extremely interesting runner and one of my strongest views on the race. He loves it around here having finished second in the race that Captain Dunne won back in 2011 and a fair fifth last year when being hampered not once, but twice in what can only be described as seriously bad luck in-running. After the Epsom race last year, he finished a good two length fourth to Oretensia in a group two at Goodwood (same race Stone Of Folca was back in ninth); two and three quarter lengths fourth behind Sole Power in a listed event at Doncaster; two lengths fourth behind Mince in a group three at Ascot. Running to that level behind those sort of horses is the work of a group three sprinter at worst and with his mark ever-so-slightly slipping, plus almost double the price of Stone Of Folca, he has to be worth a shout in this contest and this grade.
He clearly handles the track, he should love the ground and Tim Easterby has gone to the trouble of booking Silvestre De Sousa to take the ride. I would be looking at an each-way play or for me, a bet on the pro markets, or exchanges, for him to place at around 4/1 (5.0).

Of the others, Smoothtalkinrascal is the other Middleham representative in the race, but the three-year-old has a mountain to climb to overcome the stats. Three-year-olds remain 0-30 in the race and although he has chalked up two good wins already this season, he is up against some rock solid handicappers here and could be worth taking on in the place market. La Fortunata is also an interesting running for the Mike Murphy yard and with form figures over the course and distance of 22342, this daughter of Lucky Story has got to be on people's radar in the place market. She represents solid each-way value at a price of around 16/1.

1. Confessional
2. Long Awaited
3. Duke Of Firenze
4. Captain Dunne

Place market back of Confessional
Place market lay of Ajjaadd
Back to lay Captain Dunne

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