By Andy Stephens
A horse marked up in big capital letters in my Racing UK Tracker runs on Saturday in the shape of Equus Millar.
I’ve been looking out for him every day since he was fourth at Bangor two months ago and a couple of times his connections have teased me by entering him at the five-day stage but then not declaring him at the overnight stage.
I recall a conversation about Tracker horses last year with Paul Kealy, Betting Editor at the Racing Post. He said he was not a fan because, to paraphrase, you can end up lazilly backing the horse without properly studying the race in question or considering potentially different circumstances.
It is fair point and I would go further by suggesting avoiding putting a string of winners in your horses to look out for. Focus on those who end up being also-rans because it will give you more of an edge.
For what it is worth, I’ve had a good look at the opposition in Equus Millar’s race, the opener at Warwick, and he is still going to be carrying my cash. Below are are seven Saturday selections and a Super Heinz, which will again have me dreaming of hitting the jackpot.
A two-month absence for Equus Millar is a slight niggle but he is one to be interested in switched to handicaps off a mark of an opening mark of 110.
He very much caught my eye at Bangor last time when, equipped with a hood after being much too free on his previous start, he travelled strongly and was tenderly handled in finishing 17 lengths fourth to crack novice If The Cap Fits.
Equus Millar is a work in progress but this sharp track promises to suit and, given he looks to have a bit of an engine, is simply too well treated to ignore.
Front-running Flintham won over hurdles at this meeting two years ago and, a nimble jumper at home on soft ground, should be in his element around here.
The formbook suggests he has 16 lengths to find with Duel At Dawn on their running at Exeter in late November but that is misleading because Flintham looked like he had his measure until lack of a recent run took its toll in the closing stages - reflected by the fact he traded 1.37 in-running on Betfair.
Flintham should be much straighter this time and, in addition, this track promises to suit him better than Duel At Dawn, who is quoted at a best-priced 9-4 but again looked all about stamina when running well in defeat at Cheltenham last time.
Oliver Sherwood had gone more than a month without a winner until Seaston Spirit scored in game style at Fontwell this week and The Organist can confirm his team are back firing on all cylinders by taking this.
She made it 2-2 when tackling three miles or more when landing a competitive contest at Newbury last time - doing really well to get up in the closing stages after being held up in rear and having plenty to do in the home straight.
That form is rock solid look because the runner-up, Forza Milan, had previously chased home Louis’ Vac Pouch in a hot race at Aintree and the fourth, Boyhood, has since won in good style at Cheltenham. In the circumstances, a 6lb rise looks fair and it is difficult to imagine The Organist being out of the frame.
After ringing the names of six horses the temptation was to give this race a swerve for punting purposes. It is a tremendously strong renewal full of interesting contenders but the 22-1 Ladbrokes offer about Wishfull Dreaming is too big to resist.
He has been absent since June, when pulled up and dismounted at Worcester, but in the meantime he has been switched to the yard of Olly Murphy - a rookie trainer quickly making a name for himself.
Wishfull Dreaming has been a lot more expensive to follow than his classy brother, Wishfull Thinking, but he has hinted more than once that a mark of 127 is not beyond him and Murphy is equipping him with a first-time tongue tie.
The fact he has been absent 202 days in a not a concern because his new trainer brought back Hunters Call to win a valuable pot at Ascot just before Christmas after a similar absence and, in any case, Wishfull Dreaming’s record when fresh is compelling. He bolted up after 11 months off on his return last season (only 4lb higher here) and had won after 280 days off the previous campaign.
Mr Whipped looked good when giving weight and a beating to his rivals at Newbury last time and a line through runner-up Gowiththeflow suggests he has the measure of the exciting Chooseyourweapon.
One who looks a value punt to upstage both is Paisley Park, a son of Oscar out of a Presenting mare who was strong at the finish when turning over the long odds-on Vision Des Flos on his hurdling debut at Hereford last month.
Paisley Park is open to plenty of improvement and Emma Lavelle knows what is required to win this contest, having won it with Labelthou (2007) and Court In Motion (2011).
Fountains Windfall looked in command of the Grade One novices’ chase here on Boxing Day only to fall four out. A mark of 146 may well underestimate him but he is a cramped price considering that was only 18 days ago and that he has completed just once in three starts over fences.
Ballyalton looks an extremely solid alternative, especially if the ground dries out any more. He is only 2lb higher than when winning at the Cheltenham Festival the season before last and he has run two credible races in top handicap company back at Prestbury Park on his past two starts, when the testing going would not have been ideal for him.
Overall, this looks a weaker race, notwithstanding the presence of Fountains Windfall, and the step up to three miles may well show him in a better light these days.
Cresswell Breeze seems bound to give another good account and the handicapper has been swift to drop Missed Approach a chunk in the ratings but the pair are up near the top of the betting and the general 9-1 about Indian Castle makes more appeal to me.
He has never quite fulfilled his early potential but he arrives here on the back of two solid runs in races for amateurs at Cheltenham. He stayed on stoutly each time and looks well worth a belated first go at this kind of trip.
Indian Castle has won off an 8lb higher mark in the past and I like the fact he is being equipped with a first-time visor and will be ridden by Robert Dunne for the first time. Dunne rode the winner of this race in 2014 and is building an impressive record in the big staying chases.
How To Spend £20 on Saturday:
12.40 Warwick: Equus Millar £3 win at a general 7-1
3.15 Kempton: Ballyalton £2 win at a general 5-1
3.35 Warwick: Indian Castle £3 win at a general 9-1
OPTION TWO: 16p Win Super Heinz on the seven above plus 40p each-way accumulator