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Cleveland Handicap @ Townsville preview

With the focus off the big cities for feature racing in Australia at this time of year, other venues hit the spotlight. Today is Townsville Cup Day, a race meeting that will draw a crowd from far and wide in northern Queensland. But rather the main event, @BrisburghPhil has settled on the sprint feature of the day, the $75k Cleveland Handicap. Read more of his excellent via the ReadingThePlay website.

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Cleveland Handicap

I love a good handicap race, and whilst this isn’t a Blue Riband event on the Australian racing calendar, it is nearly always an interesting race, with a big field, and thus plenty of chances. This year is probably no exception but I’ve hopefully found 1 or 2 horses that stand out a bit from the pack;

Weather and Track Condition;

A shower or two forecast but very much expect that a genuine dry track will eventuate.

Tempo;

Should be genuine at the very least here, with a number of these being on pacers, and a few of those drawn out on the track could well be vying for a forward position early. Fast run races have been the norm in all of the lead up races into this, though it hasn’t always been a backmarker that has saluted.

Analysis;

1. ESSINGTON- Scratched.

2. OUTSTANDINGLY- To say he is travelled would be an understatement with Townsville being the 23rd racecourse he has visited. His best form is at shorter distances than this, 8/20 1000-1100m opposed to 3/19 at the 1200m distance of this race. The wide alley would appear to be no advantage to him (0-0/8 Barriers 10+) and perhaps the best thing you can say about him is his excellent record of 7 wins from 10 carrying this weight (58-58.5kg). A lot of those would have been in weaker races though and his 2/2 record at Birdsville and 2/3 at Mt.Isa tend to indicate the sort of class he is able to dominate. His best form is actually with slightly more days between runs and he looks to have a hard task here in having to overcome a wide run early in the race.

3. JABIRU DREAMING- Won this race last year in an outstanding performance from a wide barrier. That capped off a remarkable 9 wins in a row and they were all in this part of the world albeit the majority of them North West of this region. Problem is he has only won 1 of 6 races since and rises 3.5kg this year and once again has to overcome a horror barrier drawn, even worse than last year. The positives are, he is back in form, has carried weight well in the past and is back with the trainer that has had all the success with him (10-1/13). He can also race on pace and come from behind, as he was forced to do last year. I think he will run a big race but not sure he can bring home the bacon this time. Place chance.

4. MAZUKA- Has an excellent 3-2/7 record third up from a spell and is so today. His 8/22 record at 1000m though looks way better than his 3/28 record beyond that distance with 2/19 his stats at this trip. On the positive side he is 5-3/10 with this kind of break between runs (15-21 days) and he has drawn perfectly. 4-4/17 at the track is only just worth mentioning, but he will be in the right position throughout, and he meets Jabiru Dreaming 4.5kg better for a 1.6L deficit in this race last year. Definite place hope at likely generous odds, but doubt he can win.

5. KANETOSHI KING- Scratched

6. BALUSTRADE- Drops nicely in weight here off a nice WFA third at this track on June 29. It wasn’t an overly strong class of race for that type though, and he too has drawn the car park here. His 3-4/12 at this distance is not quite as impressive as his 5-3/10 at 1300m. He doesn’t seem well weighted in the race despite that effort last start (2nd horse in that race since failed miserably). 2/2 with 22-28 days between runs reads well, but he will need to produce a career best (as might the jockey) to win this. A place chance at odds perhaps, but doesn’t rate a great winning chance for mine.

7. LEXCEN- Former South Australian horse who surprised with an outstanding ‘go to whoa’ win second up this preparation at Mackay. He blotted his copybook at this track last time though, at the rear throughout, beaten 4.5L after going up 5kg in weight. That race was run to suit him too, with a backmarker the eventual winner. His record at 1200m is decidedly ordinary (3-4/19), and his 4th up stats (0-1/5) don’t mirror his 2nd up return of 3-1/6, so perhaps we saw the best of him 2 starts ago? The 6-5/19 he boasts with 8-14 days between runs didn’t assist him last time, so I can see few positives for him in this, with the possible exception of a middle barrier. He might add some pace to the race but hard to see him figuring

8. GO FOREST GO- Is cheekily attempting this race first up and now without reason it would seem given his dominant 3L winning margin at this track and distance last May in a Class 6 event beating Balustrade at level weights. That was his first fresh up win in 6 tries but he has failed at it since to make that record read 1/7. He was narrowly beaten when 4th in this race last year, just on half a length behind the winner Jabiru Dreaming and he does meet him 3kg better for it this year. He absolutely loves this track though (4-3/8) and has drawn similarly to last year with the coveted rails barrier as opposed to 2 last year. May well have been prepared solely for this race and does look one of the better hopes this year looking at his preparation last Winter. And he does go well for this jockey (3-3/7) so a few positives for him here.

9. ALBERTIQUE- Is a former Victorian in stellar form, having won 5 of his last 6 starts, and the last 3 straight .He goes very fast early and whilst his record at 1200m is fair it does seem he would be better served at a lesser distance in a race of this quality. He does also meet Jabiru Dreaming 1.5kg worse off for just beating him last start and Mazuka 1kg worse for a short head victory. Notably has a great record backing up (3/4) so a bit of merit in that last win which was off more than a months break. Perhaps a pity it is 20 days between runs here? He has drawn to advantage though and will make sure this race is no place for the faint hearted. Likely to be in front with 200m to go but just a little doubtful he can repeat what he did last time with 200m more distance and slightly worse off at the weights against a few.

10 ASSIMILATOR- I really like this horse. He really impressed when winning Class 6 race in Brisbane last March doing it at both ends over 1110m at Doomben. He struck a wet track after that, up to 1400m, and looked to have completely lost his way, unable to win in 3 starts since Doomben, but he really returned to form with a vengeance here last week in a decent BM79 restricted class race over 1000m. The blinkers went on for the first time, he looked poorly weighted with 59kg, and happened to get caught in a bit of speed battle up front. He dashed away on straightening though and put a massive gap in the field winning by an impressive 4L, whilst clocking a sizzling 33.02 for his last 600m. Not sure what it is about his physiology/appearance, but I saw again what was evident in Brisbane. He really stretches his body right out, particularly the neck. He is certainly a sight to behold at the finish of a race. He is beautifully bred out of Redoute’s Choice, and is in fact a full brother to Group 1 winner Master Of Design. If that isn’t a good recommendation for this type of race then I don’t know what is! Overall he is 7/10 in his career to date, drops 5kg into this race (not a lot harder than last start), 1/1 this track, 3/4 at 1200m, and 7/9 on good surfaces. He gave .5kg and a 4L beating to a horse called Erfaan last week. Considering that horse had beaten another named Daph ‘n’ Alf at level weights prior, and that horse was narrowly beaten in an Open class lead race up to this event, it would seem Assimilator is getting in here some 4-5kg light against any horse that contested that race. There is little doubt that the lighter weighted horses in this race are competitive with the higher weighted ones, so it’s not hard to be very keen on this horses’ chances. The negatives are a back up with no precedent, and a wide barrier. He doesn’t ‘map’ well but at least he is 4/5 when drawn in the second half of fields (albeit smaller in number). I’m very keen on him as he appears to have the most potential of any of these, and he is carrying a light weight. Just need a price and I’m hoping for $4+. I’d back him at any price above $3.20 but am wary about taking less than that, given the backup, barrier and associated speed map.

11. CANHEDANCE- A rising 9yo who has form around a number of horses running in this race and he looks quite well off at the weights against a few of them (Panecilo, Fast ‘n’ Ferocious, Balsutrade). He isn’t much much (or even) better than them though and has drawn awkwardly here. This is arguably his best distance, not his best track, but against that certainly well prepared with his best form with 22-28 days between runs (6-3/17). His consistency of late borders on the unbelievable with his last 9 starts producing 3 wins, 5 seconds and a third. The furtherst he has been beaten in that period is 2L. He is going to be big odds here and just going on that form of late is a nice horse to throw into multiples. Would be a lot keener from a better barrier as he could get posted wide. Normally a go forward horse and he will be challenged for supremacy early in this race so it makes things difficult for him. Place chance.

12. SO PRETENTIOUS does look like one we can be confident of leaving out of the reckoning. He too has drawn wide and has been well beaten in 3 starts since a spell at Mackay. He doesn’t drop any weight on his last start and this is a harder race. 1/1 here is interesting, as is his 2-1/4 fourth up, but just a couple of days too many between runs (0-2/4 22-28 days). This is possibly his best distance but the barrier presents a real problem for him too. Most likely that he will get caught in ‘no mans land’ being a leader/midfield type and just think the class is beyond him.

13. WHITSUNDAY EXPRESS is another in a very similar category. Lacks the class and awkwardly drawn. Whilst his record at 1200m is okay, he hasn’t won at the distance for nearly 2 years, and his record at this track doesn’t inspire at 3-6/24. A pity he isn’t backing up here because it is his strongest stat at 4-4/10, and that was the case last time when only beaten 1.6L here at this distance. He meets a few out of that race better at the weights, and whilst it is possible he can beat them home, I doubt very much that he can trouble the better chances.

14. PANECILLO- Speedy and unlike some others well drawn, so he is likely to be in this for a long way. Has an excellent record at the distance (6-4/12) and a compelling statistic of 7/7, never being beaten with a gap of 8-14 days between runs. That is something I have not seen the likes of before and is significant given his 2-6/13 with a longer respite than that. The last time he had an 11 day break he won 2nd up this campaign. He doesn’t look well weighted on his last effort (was against some of these,) but on the plus side he gets a senior jockey back aboard as opposed to an apprentice that rode him there. This jockey is 1-1/2 aboard,and the horse has an affinity on this track (5-5/12). Nicely prepared for this race, but the class is a big query and he will be kept company up front in a likely high speed race. No doubt he will be over the odds and he is going to be in the contest for a long way. Definite place prospects.

15. FAST ‘N’ FEROCIOUS – is racing in career best form, but not overly well weighted against some of these, off his last start win and the race was very much run to suit him that day. His jockey has a good record on him, the distance is suitable and he has a good record at the track, the latter point a common theme for most of the local runners in this race. He has drawn wide and is 0/4 from barriers outside 9, but that shouldn’t really be a problem to him here. He will almost certainly get back and be suited off a fast pace. Probably lacks the class to win and looking at his overall career form I wonder whether he might have been better served with more days between runs. Certainly a place chance though as he is one of the few likely to get back and run on in the race.

16. LADRETTO- Former Victorian who has blossomed in Nth Qld winning all of his 6 starts, 5 here and 1 at Ingham in at his first go up here. Last start was the acid test at WFA and he produced a gutsy display to prevail, but had Balustrade got an easier run in transit the result might well have been different. The race was really set up for a swooper, and in another 50m or so it would have been by one called Dab Touch. Unfortunately that horse hasn’t franked the form finishing last behind Assimilator since. All you can do is win though and this horse has done it at this distance, on this track, 3 times in a row now, and he has drawn well enough to make a big impact here. He maps perfectly to get the perfect run just behind the leaders, or he can take up the lead if the pace slackens. He is 6/6 on good tracks and only 1/9 on Dead or worse, and this is by far the lowest weight the horse has carried (56kg next highest). He is going to be a very popular pick and looks hard to beat, with the only queries being the big field (with more pressure), and the fact he is yet to beat much. 28 day break into this shouldn’t hurt and he is a definite winning chance.

There are 5 emergencies in this race but for the sake of brevity I’m not going to review their form. What I can say is there is nothing amongst them I would consider good enough to go into my top 4, and probably not even in the top 10 of this race. 3 of them have drawn inside barriers though, so if they come out it might make the task easier for those (remaining) drawn a touch awkwardly.

Conclusion;

I’m keen to be on the big improver from last start ASSIMILATOR. He only needs to repeat that effort to win this off a big weight drop. If he does get caught wide it might not be fatal for him, as he has shown a propensity for doing it at both ends of a race, and he is on the minimum weight, affording him the luxury of perhaps making a mid race move for victory. It’s a bit of a lottery outside of him with the most obvious danger being Ladretto, given his untarnished record in this region. Go Forest Go really appeals to me first up at likely good odds, and Panecillo intrigues me with that 7/7 record with 8-14 days between runs. For the sake of value I will go with this top 4;

1. ASSIMILATOR
2. GO FOREST GO
3. PANECILLO
4. LADRETTO.

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