Friday, 21 August 2015

Lonsdale Cup preview

Staying races play a large part at the latter end of the Ebor Festival, with the set weights and penalties of the Lonsdale Cup today and the time-honoured Ebor Handicap tomorrow. The Lonsdale Cup is also part of the British Champions Series, adding to the prestige of the race.

Casting the magnifying glass over the field is regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100. This was sent through before a couple of withdrawals, so please allow for non-runners and Rule 4s in the analysis.

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Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup
Group 2, 2m 88y (again, why have non-standard distances?!)
£160,000
1430 local, 2330 AEST


The latest episode in the flat season’s staying calendar, the Lonsdale Cup, takes place on Friday, a race which is likely to be a war of attrition with the best stayers in England taking on a couple of decent Irish horses and another cracking race in prospect.

Gold Cup winner, Trip To Paris, tries to do what has been done in recent years by Millenary, Opinion Poll and Ahzeemah, namely carry a 4lb penalty for his Ascot success to victory. His meteoric rise from Lingfield All Weather handicap winner from a mark off 88 to the country’s premier stayer via Ripon and Chester Cup successes has been well documented and he lost nothing in defeat when failing by a neck to concede the penalty to Big Orange and Quest For More in the Goodwood Cup last time. All ground seems to come alike but the main concern with him is that he’s been to every party this year and could have had a hard enough race last time although I do expect Graham Lee to try to hold on to him longer this time and put him into battle very late in proceedings.

Big Orange, the winner at Goodwood following a surprise victory over 12 furlongs in Newmarket’s Prince of Wales Stakes, has always promised a lot and is now delivering. With stamina assured, he could press on from some way out and try to grind it out up the long unforgiving straight. Another who doesn’t seem fazed by underfoot conditions, he cannot be left out of calculations.

The runner-up at Goodwood, Quest For More - NON-RUNNER, has been a revelation since stepping up in trip this season, winning the Northumberland Plate on his run before Goodwood. Incredible to think he was beaten off 85 at this meeting last year but was carrying the penalty of my money that day.

From a form point of view, all three clearly have big chances but that’s been incorporated into their prices and I thought the Goodwood race was a grueller to say the least so, as a value punter, I prefer to look elsewhere.

Willie Mullins has booked Dettori to ride Plate runner up, Max Dynamite but he seems held on that form by Quest For More and could be interesting back over hurdles after his Galway second to Quick Jack, while the stable’s other representative, Simenon, has regularly mixed it at this level without appearing to quite have the boot to beat the best.

Times Up is a grand old stayer with wins aplenty at this level on his CV, including this race three years ago but his current form suggests he is nowhere near that level any more. Could be interesting off an even lower mark in the Cesarewitch if that is his end of season target.

Hughie Morrison has freshened up last year’s Melrose winner, Vent De Force, since flopping on lightning quick ground at Royal Ascot, having previously been the benefactor of a peach of a ride from Richard Hughes in winning the Henry 11 at Sandown, Earlier second to Mizzou in the Sagaro at Ascot, the suspicion remains that he is better with give underfoot and, if rain arrives before the race, his current double-figure odds would make some appeal.

Mizzou, trained with typical patience by Cumani, has also been given time since not running his race in the Gold Cup but he should have liked the ground there and Ascot is his course so the run is slightly harder to forgive. He had earlier been very impressive in the Sagaro and his breeding suggests that quick ground is what he wants. The trainer sounds confident but he’s priced up as though he ran well in the Gold Cup and therefore represents little value to these eyes.

Lillie Langtry runner-up, Hidden Gold is surely not up to this even in receipt of the fillies’ allowance and the fact that she’s the best Godolphin can muster speaks volumes for the state that operation are in when it comes to the best races.

Clever Cookie, once rated a decent handicap hurdle prospect by iron man former jump jockey, Chris Grant, is now one of the country’s best staying flat horses and went off just 4-1 for our best middle distance race, the King George, at Ascot last time. He was never seriously put into that race, running on for fifth once the principals had flown and consequently should come here fresh having been spared the heat of battle in the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup due to unsuitably quick ground. He’d earlier won a Listed event over 14 furlongs at York on the bridle and beaten Tac De Boistron in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes over even shorter in soft ground in the spring. It’s hard to find any negatives about him, although his regular pilot, Graham Lee, prefers Trip To Paris here. If they go hard up front and the ground is good or slower, expect to see him on the bridle in behind two out looking for the right moment to strike.

Finally, the top rated horse here, is the aforementioned Tac De Boistron - NON-RUNNER of Marco Botti, who has no penalty to carry despite being a Group 1 winner earlier in his career. Now an eight year old, he may well be on the way down but was sent off 11-10 to beat Clever Cookie at Chester conceding 7lbs over a trip way short of his best and that looks strong form before finding quick ground against him at Ascot. If the rain arrives, I’d be very keen to get on at around 15-2.

The stats say that four year olds with course winning and Group race form over two miles who ran in the Gold Cup are likely to go well here so my main play will be Vent De Force each-way at around the 14-1 mark (before NRs and Rule 4).

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