By Rachel Candelora
Last week’s selections were decimated by non-runners because of the ground and so this week, given the unpredictable nature of the weather, I’m staying far away from any British Flat racing and looking towards the jumps as the ground and weather has that National Hunt feel.
Also, as always, we are looking across the pond to Saratoga where the Grade One New York Turf Writer’s Steeplechase (one of America’s most important jump races) continues the high class action at “The Spa” this week which sees a true Super Saturday this weekend which features 6 Grade Ones.
A progressive six-year-old by the late, lamented Midnight Legend, with whose progeny Alan King has had so much success over the years. Midnight Cowboy has already won two of his four chases – at Kempton and Warwick in May - and was not disgraced when beaten just five and a half lengths by subsequent Summer Plate winner Alcala at Newton Abbot last time out. He looks the type to handle this sharp track.
A small field go to post for this 2m3f handicap hurdle and the Donald McCain-trained Prince Khurram is coming into this race off an easy success last week at Banger over this distance - showing real slickness over his hurdles to beat a big field. He’s back here with a penalty but the talented Lorcan Murtagh takes 7lb off and won on him last week. Prince Khurram likes to race prominently and around Fontwell that will suit.
Saratoga Race One at 6.00 - #4 Show Court (Each-Way)
A maximum field of 12 go to post for one of America’s most important jump races and it appears to me that the New York Morning Line compiler may have made a rick putting the former Dermot Weld-trained #4 Show Court in at 12-1.
I thought he was possibly unlucky not to win the prestigious Queen’s Cup in April but since then he has finished first past the post in a “Jumpers’ Bumper” at Parx and won a hurdle on his debut here at Saratoga.
Another plus is he now gets the assistance of leading US jumps jockey Ross Geraghty in the saddle for the first time. Others may have better form, including last year’s winner Portrade and stablemate Modem, but this bold front-runner looks capable of further improvement.
Saratoga Race Two at 6.33 - #5 La Contessa
The stats say you can hardly go wrong with a Todd Pletcher-trained second-time starter who drops from Maiden Special Weight company into a Maiden Claimer after showing something on debut.
Pletcher hits at 27 per cent with second-time starters and an incredible 36 per cent when employing “the biggest hop is the drop” angle. La Contessa ran a solid fifth on debut, on turf, but is bred to be much better on the main dirt track being by Congrats out of a Harlan’s Holiday mare.
And something for the weekend . . .
This Saturday at Saratoga is truly a Super Saturday with six Grade One races. In the $1,000,000 Grade One Sword Dancer (12f turf) a truly international field lines up featuring Erupt for France and Idaho for Ireland. It is likely that Idaho will be favorite off the back of his 3 in the King George and win at Royal Ascot, but I think Erupt could offer some value as he likes the firm going and style of North American racing. After a few poor runs in France on soft ground he can bounce back and could potentially collect his third win at the highest level.
Rachel Candelora's tips for Thursday:
2.45 Stratford: Midnight Cowboy at a general 3-1
4.45 Fontwell: Prince Khurram at a general 8-11
6.00 Saratoga: Show Court (Each-Way)
6.33 Saratoga: La Contessa