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Melrose Stakes preview

It's never easy to get it right when overnight rain makes a mess of your form study but Sam Darby of sports betting community site where members discuss and share their best bets, competing for a share of £5,000 in monthly cash prizes, has had a crack. Follow @OLBG for free tips.


Melrose Stakes

One of the most difficult puzzles to solve not only of the day but of the entire season. Five of last seven winners of this race have gone on to win a Group race (including Australian Group 1 handicaps) so we are looking for a real handicap snip here. At least half this field is well handicapped so whether you back the winner or a loser in the race take note of those that run well as they will win lesser events in the remaining months of the season.

With plenty of rain over the last two nights, there are several to draw a line through (Ed. - preview tweaked accordingly)

Great Hall (N/R)

Beat Fledged (now rated 98) in a maiden two starts ago and then opened his handicap account with a one length success over this trip at Haydock. A 10lb rise for that win seems harsh but the three horses that followed him home all won next time out and he’s weighted to confirm form with all three of those who reoppose here. Wears first time blinkers having looked a bit awkward on recent starts. Undoubtedly very talented and still well handicapped based on his last two starts so should run well and fits the bill of future group winner. Might not want any more rain though.

Mister Impatience

Run with credit on several starts this season and bits and pieces of form would give him a chance here but limitations exposed in group and listed company so going to struggle here off a rating of 97.

Ray Ward (N/R)

Run well in Group 3 company on his last two runs but failed to win two handicaps over shorter before that off handicap marks in the low 80s so difficult to build a case for him winning one of the most competitive handicaps of the season off a mark of 97.

Dashing Star

Won a handicap before stepping up to Group 3 company and closely matched with Ray Ward on two most recent runs. 12lbs higher than last handicap win and doesn’t look remotely well handicapped enough to be competitive here.


Produced a big shock to win at Royal Ascot off a mark of 88 but in hindsight was a decent bet that day at the price. Struggled to land a blow next time out off a 5lb higher mark at Goodwood and work to do to be competitive with the third home that day Havana Cooler. Could help make the pace from a low draw.

Another Cocktail (N/R)

Two and a quarter lengths behind Elidor at Ascot and performed less well over the same course and distance next time out when weakening as if something was amiss. That was probably not his true running and bits and pieces of form suggest he’s okay handicapped off 93 but would need to be more progressive to win a race like this. Tried in first time blinkers.

Havana Cooler

One of the likely market leaders having made eyecatching late progress at Goodwood despite not looking to handle the course. He’d beaten the winner of that Goodwood race (Pethers Moon) on his previous start at Newmarket and looks as though he’ll be suited by this step up in trip. Still well handicapped and represents Luca Cumani who won this in 2004 with Lost Soldier Three and 2007 with Speed Gifted (both started favourite). Cumani’s only runner since then was Lyric Street in 2011 who finished 6th.

Dark Crusader

Won his last two starts for handicap plot king Tony Martin and as with most runners from that yard is difficult to weigh up in the context of this race and almost impossible to rule out. Has proved suited by the step up to middle distances (raised 26lbs for two wins) but does have to prove it in a more competitive sphere off a much higher mark.

Argent Knight (N/R)

Beaten 3.75 lengths in first time visor by Great Hall three runs ago when slightly unlucky in running and the application of the visor looks to have done wonders with two wins since, the latest coming on first try at 2 miles. That distance looked to suit and whilst he’s competitive at this trip he is 5lbs worse off with Great Hall for that beating so makes more appeal for place purposes.

Van Percy

Hasn’t always looked the stoutest of stayers and was behind Havana Cooler last time out at Goodwood. Often runs his race but only won one handicap in five attempts and step up in trip far from guaranteed to suit.

Bomber Thorn (N/R)

This relative of stablemate Brown Panther has eyecatching form figures of 222. His debut run behind Continuum (now rated 94) suggests this opening mark of 85 underestimates him but slightly disappointing he hasn’t been able to get his head in front since. Didn’t travel at all well on his latest start and possible that was down to the firmer ground so any rain would improve his chances. The first time visor suggests connections weren’t happy with his concentration levels on that occasion and likely to improve with racing so a lively contender and one of the few runners that would welcome rain.


Another of those behind Great Hall at Haydock, she has won her only start since and only been out of the first three once in her career. Extremely consistent and the type to keep on progressing but only 1lb better off than Great Hall for a length defeat and Great Hall appears to have more improvement left in the tank.


Looked well suited by soft ground at Ffos Las when winning her latest start having run well on that surface before. Previously competitive without success on better ground but now 4lbs higher in a much better race. Two wins have come when making all so possible those tactics will be repeated here but this is much tougher.

Snowy Dawn

Registered his first success last time out at this trip when trying cheekpieces for the second time and beat a fair field (second has run well in better company since) by 2.25 lengths. Should have conditions to suit and likely to run well enough but lacks the scope of several of these and 8lb rise for that win enough to anchor him.

Hawk High

Third behind Great Hall three starts ago, beaten 1.75 lengths but worth slightly upgrading for being unlucky in running. Beat Ambleside next time out over this trip then Ambleside got the better of Hawk High back at 12f on their next meeting. Ambleside has franked that form since with another win. Ran well on very soft ground early in his career.


Consistent but difficult to win with until recently with the penny seeming to have dropped with two consecutive wins. That improvement has coincided with a change to hold up tactics so he could still have something up his sleeve, despite not being weighted to beat Hawk High. Despite having many suitable candidates trainer Mark Johnston is yet to saddle the winner of this race.


Great Hall was be a confident selection in ideal conditions but the rain has taken care of that. Several others have now abandoned ship due to the conditions. Havana Cooler ran well on soft ground on his debut and being by Hurricane Run should handle conditions at the very least but he might not relish them as much as Bomber Thorn, who could make up into a very smart contender over the next 12 months. Hawk High has also handled soft conditions in the past and still looks feasibly handicapped so could easily make the frame at a very fair price.


1. Bomber Thorn (N/R)
2. Havana Cooler
3. Hawk High


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Melbourne Cup preview

I was going to pen a lengthy analytical preview for the Race That Stops The Nation but that was rendered futile when I got the email notification for this magnificent piece of work - Andrew Hawkins' Complete Guide to the 2017 Melbourne Cup. For all the background, all the detail, video links, back stories (read the one about Tiberian especially), go there, you won't find a better analysis anywhere.

So instead I'll keep it short and sharp, which based on the lack of sleep I've had in the past week, can only be a good thing!

AU$6 million
Group 1 Handicap, 3200m
1500 local, 0400 GMT

1. HARTNELL - third last year when looked poised to win at top of straight. Has been 'running more like a two-miler' this prep according to trainer, but hasn't run beyond 2000m either. History isn't kind to horses coming back a second time to win (actually it's his third attempt) especially high in the weights. No.

2. ALMANDIN - defending champ an…