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Betfred Mile preview

Day four of Glorious Goodwood, day five of Galway... how's that punting bank going? Friday's card on the South Downs is a cracker with plenty of black type racing and classy handicaps. First preview of the day goes to Stephen Keene, @untilnextyear, with his look at the Betfred Mile.

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The Betfred Mile

The Betfred Mile, formerly the Golden Mile, has to be one of the most intriguing betting heats of the week. There is nothing like a big handicap to get your head around and there are a number of clues and angles to explore in this particular race. There are some strong trends, some potentially very well-handicapped horses and a fair few question marks. Working your way through a race like this is a bit like tackling a cryptic crossword – it is sure to get the old brain cells going, is sure to be frustrating at times, and is sure to be an incredibly satisfying experience if you get things right. By the same token, it might be like a cryptic crossword in that by the end of it you’ll think you’ve completely wasted your time!

Anyway, let’s see if we can narrow things down. Big handicaps at the major meetings generally have some notable trends as the same sorts of horses win the same sorts of races each year. While it is no good following any trend blindly, looking at them with a critical eye can certainly help us get a feel for what sort of horse might win the race.

The real standout trend relates to the draw. Generally speaking, with the turn of the track and the way the race is run, a horse needs a single-figure draw. While there has been the odd winner and a few placed horses running from a high draw it is clear a low draw is a significant advantage, particularly for horses who like to run more prominently. This makes Spa’s Dancer, Windhoek, Fireship, Captain Bertie and St Moritz very interesting runners.

However, the market is wise to the draw bias and so this isn’t necessarily the place to find a big-priced winner. This year there are also a fair few low-drawn horses who are happier being held-up, which might alter the dynamics of the race and give the rest of the field a shout. Any further rain and softer ground could also change how the race is run. So, as tempting as it would be to rule out any horse drawn in a double-figure stall, we might be missing a trick, and a big price.

Progressive form has been a bonus in this race, so Wentworth and Haafaguinea are worth a second look in particular, although all the three year-olds are worth a glance. Generally speaking, older horses don’t have a great record in the race, with only one six year-old winner in the last ten years. And we really want a horse with some sort of form – ideally finishing in the first six last time out.

Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t really narrow down the field enough – but it does give us a reasonable framework to work with once we’ve identified who might be well-handicapped.

Dance and Dance and St Moritz look very well-handicapped on their old form. Sirius Prospect, Field of Dream, Set The Trend, Windhoek and Fireship don’t look weighted out of it either. Looking from a speed rating perspective there are multiple horses who on current form could outrun their mark, but Sirius Prospect, Field of Dream, Set The Trend, Dance and Dance and St Moritz are the horses that look to be ahead of the handicapper according to their last speed rating, as well as seeming pretty well-handicapped on past form.

So, let’s take a look at those five. Sirius Prospect and Field of Dream are poorly drawn, but as horses that can be held up that might not be the end of the world. They’ve also got solid recent form, winning decent races. I think there is no harm in having some small savers on these two, as they could easily pick up the pieces should the race fall apart.

Set The Trend is badly drawn and perhaps too old to win, so I’m going to rule him out.

Dance and Dance is well-drawn, but might not be able to make the most of the draw with his favoured running style. With the draw and Ryan Moore on board the price is a little skinny. I’m also a little worried that Dance and Dance is a bit of a “nearly” horse, who keeps running into trouble and having hard-luck stories and just can’t get the win. I wouldn’t put anyone off having a bet on him though, as he probably is the most likely winner, if not the best value.

This leaves us with St Moritz. He might be too old at seven. But he is incredibly well-drawn, can front-run and as a recent recruit to the David O’Meara yard is fascinating. O’Meara has a knack of bringing the best out of tired horses, and it can take a couple of runs to do so. While St Moritz hasn’t tackled Goodwood before, he has placed at Epsom, which suggests the undulating track won’t be a problem. With Paul Hanagan on board I’m willing to take a chance here as we could have a horse that is not only well-handicapped, but also has the potential to improve above and beyond what we might expect too.

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