British racing fans regularly moan about the lack of quality racing on these shores on a Sunday so the top brass on the website team followed suit and have drafted me in to cover the sub-standard action on the final day of the week!
Today’s card at Pontefract, however, is definitely not at the lower end of the spectrum, and has a touch of class with the Listed Pomfret Stakes taking centre stage at 3.30, though it is elsewhere on the card that I’ll go for today’s selections.
In middle distance and staying handicaps at this time of year I take a good look at the three-year-olds who not only receive a useful weight-for-age allowance but are mostly less exposed than their older rivals as well.
I certainly think it will pay to stick with the Classic generation in the Play Sporting Life Pick 7 For Free Now Handicap (2.30pm) and I'll be backing Liquid Gold, who rates my strongest bet of the day.
Richard Fahey’s filly has shown a consistent level of form in finishing second in three maidens so far over an extended seven furlongs, a mile and nine furlongs. On each occasion she has looked like she would have more to offer once upped in trip.
Connections have saved the step up in distance for today’s handicap debut and, having also been given a short break since those three qualifying runs I expect her to show marked improvement and prove well treated off a mark of 69.
It could well be the case that three-year-old's are the ones to focus on again in the Ron Vause Memorial Handicap (3.00) but I’m not convinced favourite Near Kettering is especially well handicapped on the form he has shown so far and odds of around 11/4 look too short to me. Lucy’s Law made some appeal but might have been stretched by the trip around this stiff track on testing ground - she is a non-runner.
The soft ground will not be a problem for the five-year-old Lopes Dancer, whose soft ground form taken in isolation reads extremely well. Those efforts include a good second on heavy ground at the course in the early part of last season over a mile. The gelded son of Lope De Vega has since since proved well served by a step up to this trip and might well be able to progress again now that he switches back onto what I believe will prove his favoured ground conditions.
I’m sure almost all punters have a cliff-horse or two each season and for some reason mine are often trained by Ruth Carr, which I see as a good thing as invariably the North Yorkshire-based trainer finds a way to get her horses to win. It would be wrong to describe Magical Effect as a cliff horse for me just yet, but having only had him on side as a saver when he nabbed what would have been a nice winner for me at Ripon early this season, I’ve been with him to some degree on each of his three defeats since. It does not put me off siding with him again in the tiesplanet.com - Ties For Every Occasion Handicap (4.00) today, though, as I am sure we have not seen the best of him yet and I am convinced he is well handicapped. Although versatile as regards conditions, I think he goes especially well on a soft surface and having noted that he made good late ground at this track last time I think he is ready to strike.
There was a time when I would quickly draw a line through the high drawn horses in big field sprints at Pontefract but perhaps it is time to review that approach. So far this season there have been 13 races with a field of 10 or more runners over five or six furlongs and eight have been won by a horse starting from a double-figure gate.
With that in mind I am going to have to back One Boy each-way in the Fly High Faye Nickels Handicap from stall 13. A proven soft ground performer, his mark has fallen to a rating 2lbs lower than for his last win, following a quiet season so far. The signs were there that he is coming back to his best when third at Beverley on Monday so at double-figure odds he has to be backed.
Chris Dixon's Sunday tips:
2.30 Pontefract: Liquid Gold
3.00 Pontefract: Lopes Dancer
4.00 Pontefract: Magical Effect
5.00 Pontefact: One Boy