13:50 Newbury – Steventon Stakes
This is not an easy race to unravel, with plenty of questions posed, with the trickiest horse to weigh up being Emotionless, who is the pick on various ratings, but hasn’t run in Britain since 2016, and has essentially been disappointing on these shores since winning the Champagne Stakes as a juvenile. He’s run well in Dubai, but this third to Prize Money and Postponed in a Group 3 last year (on which his rating is predicated) looks much less impressive now than it did at the time, and a second to Benbatl at Meydan in January has had some of the gloss knocked off it given how that smart performer has performed since coming back to Newmarket.
The fact that Emotionless has had a lengthy break both before and after his last start cannot be viewed as a positive, and nor can be the fact that his trainer has sought out the weakest black-type contest available. He looks a lay at 3.75 or thereabouts and is also worth taking on in the place market with just seven runners going to post.
Recommended: Lay Emotionless @ 3.75 or shorter
Recommended: Lay Emotionless for a place @ 2.2 or shorter
14:25 Newbury – JLT Handicap
In big-field handicaps, the draw is always my first port of call, and as discussed in my Derby piece, there can be some odd results in draw analysis, the recurring theme being that the innermost draw tends to be a serious disadvantage, when basic logic would infer otherwise (shortest route, rail to race against etc). In truth, horses drawn dead against a rail in a big field tend to have tactics thrust upon them, and it tends only be tracks which are constantly on the turn which confer an advantage to those to race on the innermost line.
Don’t get me wrong – low draws are often advantageous, but the lowest of all is not. Newbury is another fine example, and while there are no significant stats for races over this trip, an analysis of all races run on the round course at 1m3f or further since 2009 shows that the inside berth is not an advantage in any way. In double-figure fields, only two races from 86 have been won by the horse coming out of stall 1, and that’s despite a generic bias to horses drawn low. On a side note, it’s often worth opposing horses drawn on either extreme in fields where the stalls are in the centre of the course and there is daylight on either side – it’s amazing how many times horses will duck away into space from such positions, and it usually spoils their winning chance in the process.
Stratum has been the subject of support this morning, and that will get people putting 2 & 2 together given who owns the horse. Well, if Tony Bloom has been popping into a series of Brighton bookies’ backing this horse at opening time, then I’m a second-class gas-fitter’s mate. The horse is clearly worthy of respect given connections, but his only win on the level came in a maiden race, and it’s not like he was trained by Joe Bloggs before switching to Willie Mullins. Added to that, there tends to be far too much credence given to the form of the Ascot Stakes because of where it is. It’s a very ordinary handicap in the grand scheme of things, and horses who hit the frame tend to be overrated on the back of it.
Stratum did catch the eye when placed behind Lagostovegas, but he’s gone up accordingly in the weights and would be several points bigger in the betting if I was pricing it up. That stall 1 draw will be viewed as a plus by most punters, but it is no help at all to him, and he’s worth laying in the win market at short odds.
Recommended: Lay Stratum @ 4.0 or shorter
15:00 Newbury – Hackwood Stakes
My play here is an obvious one – Equilateral has plenty to prove after flopping in the Commonwealth Cup, and while he had excuse for that run (scoped dirty), he’s now run badly twice in four runs, and his wins have come when he’s been far superior to his rivals.
He’s the archetypal ‘visuals’ horse in that he’s appeared hugely impressive for his wins, but doesn’t have a smart speed or collateral form rating to back up that impression.
He may yet do so, but he won’t win this unless showing the improved form he has promised but is yet to deliver, and if he runs like he did last time, or at York last season, he will be nearer last than first. It is possible that he will put it all together, and his trainer is adamant that he is top-class, so it wouldn’t be a total shock if he posted a huge effort, but on balance a place lay looks the best advice, as he does seem to have two ways of running.
Recommended: Lay Equilateral for a place @ 2.0 or shorter