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Wokingham Stakes preview II

I did say this was a bastard of a race to solve, so I've brought in a second opinion. And wouldn't you know it, a completely different set of selections. Good luck finding a winner with this one! Making sense of the race is yet another talented new addition to the blog - Stephen Boardman, @ste_b85, in a preview which was originally posted at TheRacingGuru.

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Wokingham Stakes

HITCHENS
Winner of a Grp3 at the Curragh on latest start and only blip this season when down the field in HQ 6f h'cap (Gabriel's Lad 2nd; Shropshire 4th). Should love the quick conditions and Murtagh 1-1 on him; bit to find with some of these though.

ARNOLD LANE
Used quite a lot in his career so far and seeks a hat trick here after landing a conditions event and German Grp3 on last two starts. Creeping up and up the weights as a result though and muddling middle draw hinders chances too.

ELUSIVITY
Shown a fair level of form this term so far since joining the O'Meara team and was midfield in this last year from 3lbs higher. May need to be dropped further still before getting his nose in front once more and last two wins on Soft.

ROYAL ROCK
Another with a solid looking Ascot record having won two Grp3 contests here in the past. First handicap start for five years and probably in the twilight of his career now, so others appeal more.

MASS RALLY
Quirky sort who landed the Ayr Silver Cup last season and comes here off the back of a win in a hot contest at York (Nocturn 2nd). Career high mark to defy now though and mostly raced under softer conditions.

REGAL PARADE
Another grand old timer and a Grp1 winner in his day. Did win h'cap from this mark last October and was 2nd in the Ayr Gold Cup but he's another who prefers easier conditions and likely others have more to offer.

MORACHE MUSIC
Excellent record at Ascot and finished a fine 4th in this last year off a 2lbs higher mark. No recent rain hinders his chances greatly though as all runs on quick ground have been disappointing.

OUR JONATHAN
Has contested a lot of big handicaps during his career and finest hour came when taking the Ayr Gold Cup in 2011. He wears a visor for the first time today. Rarely seen when ground is fast, so any rain will help, but looks exposed anyway.

DUKE OF FIRENZE
Improving all of the time and weaved between horses to land the Epsom Dash in dramatic fashion on latest start. Needs another step up to take this but has bags of talent and deserves plenty of respect for Stoute/Moore.

PRODIGALITY
Never out of the first three, since going sprinting, at any track bar Doncaster. Finished 3rd in hot h'cap won by Mass Rally at York in May and better off at the weights today with 1st, 2nd and 4th who all re-oppose again. Claims.

SECRET WITNESS
Has run in a plethora of races during his career but has gone off the boil of late. Usually saves his best for the flatter tracks and remains 7lbs above last winning mark. Hard to fancy.

PALACE MOON
Not seen to great effect since landing Newbury h'cap last May and he's another that can't be improving now he's an 8yo. Drawn right on the far side and hard to envisage him being better than 27 of his rivals today.

YORK GLORY
Very consistent this year and has been bang in contention at the finish in three excellent sprint h'caps (form worked out well). Entitled to go close despite highest ever turf mark but could find a few too good again.

LOUIS THE PIOUS
Flirted with different distances throughout his career but his record over 6f is good. Only fourth start for new stable today and should strip fitter for sixth behind Mass Rally at York in May. On a high mark but can compete here.

DINKUM DIAMOND
Came home third in the frantic renewal of the Dash this year and no doubt has the ability to take a handicap at some stage. This is a tough ask though over a trip that may stretch him on a stiff course.

SHROPSHIRE
As game as they come this year and placed in three really competitive sprint handicaps so far. Up 3lbs since March though and no claimer on board this time makes things very tough. A CD win a positive though.

NOCTURN
Rock solid form this year that ties in with a number of runners today. Up 5lbs for a narrow HQ win over Enrol, he can give a good account once again. Any rain will help his chances and he deserves the utmost respect.

ZERO MONEY
Last win was back in Sept 2011 and he's often difficult to place these days. Lots to find with Nocturn on latest running and it'd be a shock if he came home ahead of the rest.

REX IMPERATOR
Now 3lbs ahead of the handicapper after a decent 2nd at Doncaster recently and has been supported during the week for this. Off the same mark as when he won last year at Windsor; potential for trainer who won this in 2009.

KHUBALA
Most progressive last year for Ed Dunlop and resumed the same way this year for Hugo Palmer. Dettori booking is a positive and arrives in form after Windsor triumph. He won't want it too quick, so any juice in the ground throws him into the mix.

CHANDLERY
Superb 2yo but missed all of his 3yo campaign last year and has come back with some woeful efforts this time around. Impossible to make a case for him in current heart.

LADYSHIP
Interesting runner from the Stoute team; first foal from a dam who improved with age. Wasn't in her coat when midfield on seasonal d├ębut at HQ, so progress likely, and first time hood a potential help too. Hughes booking a positive and not dismissed.

GABRIEL'S LAD
Only out of the first three once in ten career starts. Nursed into this race by low profile trainer and gets on well with Fallon. Form ties with a whole host of quality horses and deserves his place near the head of the market. Leading player.

GLASS OFFICE
Ran in the UAE 2000 Guineas back in Feb and appears more at home on an artificial surface (no wins on turf). Never competed in a big field handicap before and likely others have more to offer today.

BAPAK CHINTA
Decent as a 2yo and very lightly raced during career. Shown nothing special so far this term and a drop further down the weights might be required before he visits the winner's enclosure once more.

REBELLIOUS GUEST
Another that seems to be on a downward spiral at present and this one of the toughest races to bounce back in. Hard to fancy.

ANCIENT CROSS
Hardy Northern handicapper that's paid his way over the years. Can still mix it with the best, as proved when winning at York in May. Never won over 6f though and used to the flatter tracks of late. Hanagan booking a plus but too many question marks.

POOLE HARBOUR
Has placed in four excellent sprint handicaps so far this year. Form ties in with a number of these and with young Twiston-Davies taking 5lbs off it puts him right in the mix. Best of those drawn low.


SUMMARY

As always here there are plenty of questions that need answering and it remains a very tough nut to crack. Those aged four or five have the best record of recent times so it's from that age bracket where the selections will lie. Most of the fancied runners seem to be drawn high, leading one to believe that is where the winner will come from. It often pays to have at least one choice on the opposite side though, just in case. With it being unclear at this stage if any rain will fall it's usually wise to look for those who won't mind it whatever happens. Considering all of the factors above it's very tricky for me not to side with my original ante post selection GABRIEL'S LAD (20/1 AP; 11/1 now). He's progressed really well throughout his career and has been handled beautifully by little known trainer Denis Coakley. The 3yo handicap he contested and came third in at York last September is a superb piece of form, with Heeraat (first), Hamza (second) and Jack Dexter (fourth) all since advertising how good a race that was. He's had a nice fitness boost when he chased home Hamza at Newmarket in May and has been saved for this since.

Searching for a bit of value further down the field it's worth taking a chance on another two in a race of this nature, with one drawn high and one drawn low. The first of those is PRODIGALITY (33/1 EW). He's quite high in the weights now but his trainer likes him and feels he's matured a lot going into this season. The only time he throws in a bad race is at Doncaster and he's better off with Mass Rally, Nocturn and York Glory from their meeting at York two starts ago. He was just touched off into second at Goodwood on his latest start when Wentworth (Britannia fourth here on Thursday) was behind him. He probably doesn't deserve to be so big a price. The second and final selection to hopefully chase home Gabriel's Lad is POOLE HARBOUR (25/1 EW). He's just snook into the bottom of the card here after the top weight has declared a non runner but he's right up there with the best of them here. It's extremely useful that Willy Twiston-Davies takes 5lbs off his back as that gives him a much better chance based on his form with some of these already this season. He'll have a 10lbs swing with Nocturn for just a nose defeat at Windsor in April and he's closely matched with Gabriel's Lad on the Newmarket run too. He's definitely the best of those drawn low in my opinion and, again, probably shouldn't be such a huge price. One final one that deserves a mention is Ladyship, we haven't seen the best of her yet but she'll improve with racing and age and she's one to keep an eye on, even if today isn't her day.

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