Primary action on a busy Saturday takes place at Newbury, which hosts two Group races and a Listed event for 2-y-os.
Centrepiece is at 3.35, when the Betfred Hungerford Stakes takes place over 7 furlongs, on ground described as ‘soft’ after a few cloudbursts hit the track yesterday. Despite the BHA announcing a new initiative to combat the scourge of non-runners, there are already three missing from this race, bringing the total down to the dreaded ‘dead eight’.
In the (forlorn) hope that the remainder will stand their ground, we are going to recommend an each way bet on Nathra at 5-1. Trained by John Gosden, this 4-y-o filly finished second in the French 1000 Guineas in May last year, form which puts her way ahead of anything she will meet this afternoon. Her reappearance, in a Listed race at Ascot, after ten months off, can be discounted, as she was given a very poor ride by the Mad Italian and quite badly needed the outing. Also in her favour today is the drop back to 7 furlongs, a trip over which she is unbeaten and the fact that her trainer has won this race six times in the past decade. A decent bet is advised.
The Betfred Geoffrey Freer Stakes at 2.25 is the other group race, with all nine declared standing their ground as we write. Favourite at 7-4 is the improving 3-y-o Defoe, trained by Roger Varian. This horse made the transition from handicaps last time out by winning a Listed contest at Hamilton over 11 furlongs and steps up again in trip today. Promising as this horse is, we are going to oppose with a sporting each way bet on Horseplay from Andrew Balding’s yard. This 3-y-o filly ended her 2-y-o career with a 13 length win in a Nottingham maiden on soft ground and showed she had trained on by taking a Listed contest at Newmarket on her reappearance. This was followed by two fourth places, in The Oaks and the Group 2 Prix de Malleret at Saint-Cloud, both solid efforts, and, at 14-1, she represents the value in this race.
At 1.50 the race that used to be called the Washington Singer but is now called the Denford Stakes takes place and (fingers crossed) all eight 2-y-os are still due to pitch up. Favourite is the James Tate trained Hey Gaman at 11-4 and this 5-length winner of a conditions race at Newmarket probably deserves his place at the head of the market. However, that was only a three runner race and the favourite forgot to turn up, so we oppose with two e/w picks.
We confess to a vested interest in the fortunes of Another Batt, being the proud owner of just under half a fetlock, but he has done nothing but improve since joining George Scott’s yard and ran probably his best race so far with a close second in a Listed race at Ascot at the end of last month. With the ground ideal, he rates an e/w bet at 7-1.
Also, we suggest a small e/w wager on Charles Hills filly Ripley at a generous looking 14-1. This Group 1 entered horse was closing down the winner in a competitive Goodwood maiden on her debut and, although the value of that run has yet to be tested, the promise showed was undoubted.
Sprint lovers will have their eyes on Ripon today, with the William Hill great St Wilfrid Handicap due to go off at 3.15. 19 runners are declared and, for us, the stand out bet is another Charles Hills trained beast in the guise of Shanghai Glory at 8-1. On running in the Stewards Cup at Glorious, this 4-y-o is weighted to beat today’s favourite, Growl, yet is available at twice the price so we’ll leave this one to ‘Frank’.
The consolation race at 2.40 is a 20 runner affair and we have picked two from opposite sides of the course. Terentum Star (drawn 20) at 9-1 and Rasheeq (drawn 1) at 14-1 will probably never see each other, but both may be there at the finish.
Nathra 3.35 Newbury e/w @ 5-1
Horseplay 2.25 Newbury e/w @ 14-1
Another Batt 1.50 Newbury e/w @ 7-1
Ripley 1.50 Newbury e/w @ 14-1
Shanghai Glory 3.15 Ripon e/w @ 8-1
Terentum Star 2.40 Ripon e/w @ 9-1
Rasheeq 2.40 Ripon e/w @ 14-1