There was a very amusing interview on Racing TV after Solid Stone, 9/2 favourite for the London Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday at 15:00, won at Newmarket on his reappearance.
Sir Michael Stoute's assistant James Horton was interviewed after the race – I think it was by Lydia Hislop, but I'm not 100 per cent sure, though I do remember David Cleary chuckling away in the studio afterwards – and he was asked about the colt's potential.
He tried not to give anything away but he basically started smirking and giggling, given the distinct impression that they thought the horse was rather better than the mark of 85 that it had just narrowly won off.
Solid Stone will need to be better than that mark, as he was put up 6lb for the half-length success in a five-runner race, though the second (War Tiger, who re-opposes here) came into the race on a hat-trick and they pulled clear of the third in what is often a very warm handicap at the Craven meeting.
The same owner-trainer-jockey combination won this race with Cannock Chase off a mark of 89 in 2014 and he went on to land a Grade 1, so there was never any doubt that he would be totally missed in the market here.
The question is whether a price of around 9/2 and 5/1 is acceptable as, after all, this does tend to be the one of the handicaps, year-in, year-out, with an impressive roll-call of winners who have gone to Group race success.
I can fully see why you would want him as a saver, as he has exactly the right profile, including the pedigree – and to not lose in the race if he wins, so I will have a tickle on him at [6.0] or bigger – but I have to look elsewhere for my main bet, and the Mark Johnston pair of Sky Defender and The Trader are the two that interested me most at bigger prices.
Take big price on Sky Defender while it's available
The Trader ran really well when second to a decent horse on his return at Chelmsford, but what worries me about him is that he wandered around a bit that day when coming under pressure, and you will need a straight-forward and battle-hardened horse to deliver here, as well as one who is ahead of the handicapper.
And I really liked Sky Defender‘s (pictured above on the right) attitude when winning at Bath on his comeback just under a fortnight ago.
He looked in trouble there when headed going into the final furlong, but really battled back and went on again there, and scored emphatically in the end by two lengths, although having the rail clearly helped.
He is up 4lb in a much stronger race, but he relished his first try at this 1m2f trip that day, which his breeding suggested was by no means certain.
Fighting off all-comers will not be so easy if he goes from the front again here – and getting on the lead from stall 12 may be problematic, especially with five others in here that like to go forward, so hopefully his jockey will be content to take a lead if necessary – but I was visually taken with him at Bath and, crucially, the clock seems to back that up.
Back him at [17.0] or bigger. The Betfair Sportsbook were also a generous 25/1 at the time of filing, so obviously look to take that if it is still available.
Romanised the bet in tricky Lockinge
The big race at Newbury is obviously the Lockinge at 15:40 and I can guarantee you will be reading and hearing the follow comment a lot in the next 22 hours or so.
And, to be fair, it is a staggering fact: 13 of the 14 runners in the Group 1 race are separated by just 2lb on official ratings, and the poor girl of the party is a 1000 Guineas winner in Billesdon Brook!
How is that for tricky!
Le Brivido and Laurens head the market, which I don't have any major issue with – though the former is a bit short at around 4/1, for all the promise of his comeback run – but trying to get a handle on a bet in the race is troublesome given just how tight-knit the race is.
I could have been swayed by Mythical Magic had he presumably not had a setback after winning at Meydan in February, but Romanised is clearly the overpriced one at [19.0] or bigger.
He was 28/1 in places on Friday morning, but I am happy with anything bigger than 16s, to be honest with you.
He popped up at a similar price when a 25/1 winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas on fast ground last season before losing his way on his final three starts, though he arguably shaped better than the beaten distance suggests in a couple of those.
However, there was tons more to enthuse about in his comeback fifth over 7f at Naas last month, the same race in which Le Brivido also ran with conspicuous promise after being held out the back after a tardy start.
But if you thought the favourite shaped well there on his first start for Aidan O'Brien then you had to be equally encouraged by Romanised, as he got no run at all throughout the final 2f and would surely have gone close to winning had he seen any daylight.
And don't forget he was carrying a 5lb penalty at Naas, and over a trip short of his best, too.
He came on a bundle for his reappearance last season before landing the Irish Classic, and it is worth noting that he was rated 119 after that success.
The aforementioned handicap range of the 13 horses in here is 117 to 115, so that gives you some idea of his form claims, and clearly decent ground suits him very well.
Earlier in the week, trainer Ken Condon reported that he came out of the race “bouncing” and it is all-systems go after a work-out on Tuesday. He is a strong-traveller when on song and he should get a good pace to aim at with Laurens and Ostilio in the line-up.
I think Moyassar is the right favourite in the opener and Crystal Ocean is probably not a bad price at around 1/2 to follow up his win in the Group 3 last season if you punt like that, but no more bets at Newbury for me.
Why I'm backing an outsider at Newmarket
We also have three ITV races at Newmarket, but only one interests me there and that is Don Armado, basically the outsider of the party, at [40.0] or bigger in the 15:15.
He clearly comes with risks attached – and could blow out completely – as he has looked awkward and ill-at-ease to me on his last two starts, both here, but hopefully a first-time-visor can straighten him out. Stuart Williams' best headgear figures come when using this piece of equipment.
If it does do the trick, then he is on a mark from which he can be very dangerous.
He is only 4lb higher than when winning well at Goodwood over 6f on fast ground last summer, and 2lb lower than when a good fourth, in a fair time, in a York handicap on his following start.
A reproduction of either of those two efforts will see him massively outrun his price, and hopefully win.
Going into Friday's racing, the form of the yard was a worry, but the price compensates for the doubts and they did have a very welcome winner at Newmarket on Friday afternoon.
If you want to play him each-way, he was also 33/1 with the Sportsbook when I filed. But I think he is a win-only bet on the exchange myself, given the concerns raised above.
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