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Sky Bet Stakes preview

Friday's card at York opens with a tasty handicap. Contributing to the blog for the first time is Sam Darby of sports betting community site OLBG.com where members discuss and share their best bets, competing for a share of £5,000 in monthly cash prizes. Follow @OLBG for free tips.

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Sky Bet Stakes

16 runners go to post at the time of writing but this is perhaps not as competitive as it looks with a fairly exposed field taking part, only five of these have raced fewer than twelve times on the flat. That quintet look most likely to provide the winner of this contest with six of the last 10 winners going into the race equally lightly raced.

Chancery

Chancery is the most exposed of those to have run fewer than 12 times and he now looks handicapped up to his best having gone up 13lbs for a 3.75 length win here at York over 10 furlongs two starts ago. He was uncompetitive next time out at Haydock in an equally strong handicap as this over 10f again and even if he improves back up in trip (was tried as far as 2 miles this season) whether this gelding trained by David O’Meara can find another 8-10lbs improvement this season could be unlikely.

Castilo Del Diablo

Three runs this season all in hot handicaps have shown this runner to be at his best over this trip of a mile of a half having finished second to subsequent listed winner Seal Of Approval last time out. That was in receipt of only 4lbs so is strong form, especially with Bishop Roko back in third going on to win a competitive Ascot handicap next time out (now a lively contender for Saturday’s Ebor). Castilo Del Diablo is sure to be popular on that form but it could be that he is marginally better on the all weather with two of his three wins coming at Kempton and more concerning is a 6lb rise in the weights for that run. That rise should leave him competitive but perhaps leaves him with a stiff task against other unexposed rivals.

White Nile

A very interesting contender for David Simcock having gone close in his only handicap start to date but that was on good to soft ground and he looked in need of a stiffer test that day which is worrying at the same trip here on firmer ground. All his form has been with cut in the ground and coupled with the absence of almost a year it is enough to put me off. It is worth noting that in his maiden win he beat Noble Silk (now rated 92) so it’s hard to argue he’s not well handicapped and is one to look out for later this season in softer conditions, perhaps over slightly further.

Winterlude

A very interesting contender and the only three year old in the field (that age group has produced two winners of this race in the last six years plus last year’s second and fourth). A handicap mark of 96 could well still underestimate this Godolphin runner trained by Charlie Appleby but he is probably the most difficult horse in the race to get a handle on. He won his maiden this year with any amount of ease but the second then did nothing for the form in handicap company on a mark off which he should have been competitive. Then he won a decent but not brilliant handicap from which only a couple of horses have come out and run from since, the fourth home Fennell Bay was well beaten over the same trip next time out before scrambling home up in trip in a small field at Pontefract. Up in trip, my gut instinct says he’s still well handicapped, my head says he’ll run well without winning.

Gospel Choir

This is the most interesting runner in the race for me. He ran in some of the best 3yo handicaps last season, winning two of them before coming unstuck at Ascot when meeting a bit of interference. Even that form wasn’t too bad being beaten 5.5 lengths by Ahzeemah who has won a Group 3 and been placed in a Group 2 this season. Second home in that Ascot race was Stencive, a horse Gospel Choir had beaten in his previous run so it’s also easy to suggest that Gospel Choir was well below his best in that Ascot race.

The top weight off an 11 month break won’t be for everybody but he should still be very well handicapped off a mark of 98. His first handicap win last season saw him beat Sun Central (rated 82 that day) by 1.25 lengths giving that horse 2lbs, Sun Central runs in Saturday’s Ebor off a mark of 108. Gospel Choir’s next handicap win came by 0.5 lengths giving Stencive 2lbs, Stencive was rated 88 on that occasion and is still well handicapped at 105. The fact that he’s given weight and a beating to horses now rated 108 and 105 suggests he could well rate higher than 110 in time making him a must bet off a mark of 98. His absence is a slight concern but unlike White Nile he has conditions to suit and Sir Michael Stoute won a similar handicap to this at the Dante meeting with Rye House who was making his seasonal debut. Stoute has had two winners and two runners up in this race in the past five years and it’s worth noting that Gospel Choir has been gelded since his last start. Labarinto, another handicapper in the yard won last season on his first start since being gelded. The fact that Ryan Moore is 2/2 on the horse is the icing on the cake.

Best of the Rest

There are 11 other runners and a line certainly can’t be drawn through all of them but most have few secrets from the handicapper. Come On Blue Chip is closely matched with Winterlude on their last run but has only won once in his last 18 starts, Kiama Bay is back in form but this is a better race and all his wins have come with cut in the ground whilst Party Line ran really well on Wednesday suggesting a drop down in trip would suit but this is a better race and she’s not guaranteed to line up after a tough race.

If there is one to crash the party at the price it could be York specialist Tepmokea. He isn’t the most consistent and isn’t easy to win with easy but has run very well this season to place behind the likes of Buckland, Universal and Star Lahib who have all run well at a higher level since. He’s rated only 89 here, 1lb higher than when pushing Star Lahib close in the Old Newton Cup this season and 1lb lower than his last winning mark which came over this course and distance.

Summary

Gospel Choir looks an extremely well handicapped horse and the fact that Sir Michael Stoute clearly targets this race is enough to persuade me that his absence won’t be an issue. Castilo Del Diablo and Winterlude should still be ahead of their marks are look likely to run very well with the former slightly more persuasive at the likely prices. Tepmokea looks a fair each way bet if 16 runners remain in the race but place only might be the best bet for that runner, especially as four places will be paid on Betfair regardless of non-runners.

Prediction:

1. Gospel Choir
2. Castilo Del Diablo
3. Winterlude
4. Tepmokea

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