The state of the going is often the single most important variable in racing, and the heavy rain across the country on Friday that has fallen on already sodden tracks has underlined how important it will be for punters to seek out proven soft-ground horses this weekend.
Gunmetal, last year’s winner of Saturday’s betting highlight, the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, would have been a strong fancy before the deluge. He may not have had the luck of the draw either, starting from stall three when the confirmed front-runners in the field are drawn high.
It has often been an advantage to race close to either rail in this contest and Ice Age, Dakota Gold and Belated Breath should ensure a very strong pace for the runners on the stands’ side.
The hold-up horse drawn nearby the prominent runners who catches the eye is Lahore (3.15), who will start from one off the rail in stall 19. He needs a test of stamina at this trip, which he will get in the rain-softened ground, and made smooth progress before winning on good-to-soft ground over course and distance earlier this month.
Newbury 1.50 The improving Juan Elcano was clear of the field in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket when runner-up to Mystery Power. He may need only to reproduce that running to resume winning ways with this drop in grade.
Ripon 2.05 This consolation event for horses that did not make the cut for the Great St Wilfrid has resulted in all the pacey horses being drawn low. Concentrating on the horses in the low-numbered stalls who are favoured by the testing ground leads to Alaadel, who can get a nice tow into the race from his favoured draw, will love any cut in the ground and ran a fine prep for this when a good second at Nottingham on his reappearance in June.
Newbury 2.25 The form choice is Morando on his Ormonde Stakes romp at Chester in May when he relished the testing conditions. He will appreciate this step back up in distance and, while he was beaten a long way out when in the King George last time, that was exalted company.
The danger will be if Sir Michael Stoute can elicit more improvement out of the soft-ground proven runner Sextant. But he has proved difficult in the past and may not be suited by this slog.
Newmarket 2.45 This race is unique in the racing calendar in that it is restricted to grey horses. The consistent Lethal Angel is the token choice in a contest which is ordinary by TV racing standards.
Newbury 3.00 This looks ideal for Ripp Orf, who has been gradually coming to hand this campaign and will appreciate his sights being lowered. He is 1lb lower than his last winning mark and travelled noticeably well when fourth in a hot heat at Ascot last month.
Newbury 3.35 A very tricky wide-open race but Safe Voyage, another who will be admirably suited by plenty of give underfoot, will appreciate the drop in class and the drops of rain.