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Cambridgeshire preview

One of the autumn's great handicaps, as previewed by Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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The Betfred Cambridgeshire
9f, Track Good.
Newmarket Rowley Mile course


One of the great Autumn flat handicaps, the Cambridgeshire, run over the unusual distance of nine furlongs, has thrown up some top class performers over the years.

A couple of years ago, Mukhadram was beaten into 5th from a mark of 101, almost two stone below the rating he achieved this year and, back in the mid 90s, Halling made a mockery of the race before going on to prove a Group 1 performer over 10 furlongs.

So the question is, do we have a Mukhadram or Halling in Saturday’s renewal or will the race go to a hard knocking handicapper, the type who can show his best in a fast run straight 9 furlong big field handicap?

John Gosden, who trained Halling before he went to Godolphin, houses the favourite, Cornrow, who after making all over a mile, dropped back in trip at Ascot and almost got back up in the dying strides off his current mark of 94. My concern is whether that form as it stands warrants prices around 7-1 and I sometimes feel you have to take a shorter price because of the trainer’s reputation.

Luca Cumani, who trained Dallas to win this race the day before Dancing Brave won his Arc, fields Velox, who did me a favour in early July by easily taking a Sandown handicap from a 9lb lower mark. He had a tough task from a poor draw at Goodwood but stayed on nicely at Doncaster over a mile, enough to think he’ll be in the places here. 10-1, though, is tight enough for me to let him run unbacked.

Next in the betting is Niceofyoutotellme, the hope of Ralph Beckett now that the handicap good thing, Air Pilot has missed the cut. He won a handicap over course and distance at the Guineas meeting and has had legitimate excuses on his two subsequent runs. Best fresh and on top of the ground, he has proven stamina over 10 and 11 furlongs and looks very solid around 16-1.

Queensberry Rules, third in last season’s Britannia, returned to form in a decent enough contest at the Ebor meeting. Britannia type horses are often Group race performers as their careers progress but we have to decide whether that is the case or if he is just a very good handicapper. I’d say the trainer knows but he won’t be telling us.

2012 winner, Bronze Angel, has had another excellent season with victories at Newmarket and York. Tregoning has booked a top claimer, which means he effectively runs from a 1lb lower mark than two years ago and is another who looks primed to run to his best.

Last season’s winner, Educate, is only 6lb higher after running in some unsuitable small field pattern races and proved with a fine 4th in the John Smith’s Cup that big fields undoubtedly show him in a different light. Having backed him last year, I’m loathe to desert him but it will be a cracking effort to once again defy a huge weight.

Tenor won an eight-runner Listed Sandown contest from a rival rated 7lb his superior but pattern and handicap form do not travel well and I can’t see much evidence of big field form in this ex Roger Varian trained four year old’s profile.

Gabrial’s Kaka was in top form in the spring, following a sixth in the Lincoln with victory in Newbury’s Spring Cup but, despite good runs at Goodwood and York recently, appears to be in the handicapper’s grip.

Hugo Palmer has his string in red hot form and, in Extremity, I feel he has a horse who still has significant improvement in him, having been placed in three and won three of his six visits to the track in 2014. He has a 4lb penalty for his Thirsk victory after being inconvenienced by a steady pace at York. I feel the likely strong pace and extra furlong here will certainly play to the strengths of this strong travelling three year old and expect him to show up well.

However, for financial recommendations, I’m going to side with two seemingly exposed contestants who’ve both proven their mettle over course and distance.

First up is Michael Appleby’s Bancnuanaheireann, available at 40-1 in a place. He’s not had his favourite big fields to run in this year but is only 5lb higher than when victorious in last season’s consolation race and finished fourth behind Bronze Angel at 50-1 in 2012. He was the same price earlier that season when second of 22 in a Goodwood handicap and appears to show his best form from nowhere when faced with his optimum conditions.

Tiger’s Tale was third in the aforementioned consolation race from a mark of 85 but carries a 4lb penalty for a convincing victory in a 16 runner Kempton handicap last time (Ed -that knocked me out of the Scoop6 that day...bastard!). There’s some 50-1 available and that’s too big to resist.

I’d have small each way stakes on these two but, if forced to pick from the fancied horses, I think Extremity offers the best value at 16-1.

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