York Dante Festival Tips: A quintet of bets for day one on the Kanvesmire
On Friday, we touched up on the perils of disappearing odds when you have to go up with your copy at 5pm the day before, but unsettled weather forecasts and the prospect of a lot of rain – and therefore a significant change in going – is even more annoying.
Wake up tomorrow morning to 10mm or so more than you were expecting – be quiet at the back, Finbarr Saunders – and you could have done your money in cold blood. At the time of starting to write this, the going was good, good to soft in places at York. But it was good to soft as at 4.30pm, and it wouldn't be the biggest shock if it was soft by the first on Wednesday.
Two, quite literally, against the field in tricky opener
But we soldier on regardless. In the opener at 14:20 many will be drawn to the lightly-raced horses from top owner-trainer combinations, and it is no surprise that they are at the head of the market.
My three against the field are more exposed – Innocent Touch, Awake My Soul and Two For Two – and slight preference is for the latter pair at the prices.
Innocent Touch has run four good races on this track and has run okay this season, but I am going to back the other two a big prices.
Awake My Soul has tended to need his first run of the campaign quite badly in recent seasons and that is an obvious worry, though he did won first time up in 2013. But this is his first full season with Tom Tate since joining him from David O'Meara last August, so hopefully his routine will have changed this year and he will be fit and raring to go here.
He is certainly of interest at around 33/1 considering his profile. Back him at [34.0] or bigger.
He ended last season with a good second at Redcar and he has all sorts of good form at this track, including a third in this race in 2014 and when fourth last year. Plenty of ease in the ground wouldn't bother him if it did arrive in spades.
The question marks surrounding Two For Two would be a combination of soft ground and the trip, as is hasn't raced on soft ground in this country (he won on it in France) and his form at this distance is worrying, though he did finish sixth in a fast-ground Wolferton at Royal Ascot.
But he comes here in rude health, and a 4lb rise for his Thirsk Hunt Cup second – the third was 2 lengths away and the seventh came out and won at Chester – and he is worth a nibble at [20.0] or bigger.
I will be sulking big-style if Related wins this as the forecast rain has put me off him, but he is down to a very winnable mark of 87.
Wind to be a winning Spencer Ride in sprint handicap
Shamshon and Udontdodou also caught my eye but not as much as Ride Like The Wind at [17.0] or bigger in the 14:55.
He hasn't shown that much in truth on his first two starts for Kevin Ryan since being bought for 75,000 euros at the Arqana Arc Sale in October, but conditions promise to suit him down to the ground here if the rain struts its stuff.
He was a very smart 5f-7f performer in France in 2015 and 2016, his best effort coming when beating subsequent dual Group 1 winner Make Believe in the Djebel – he ran in Gleneagles' Guineas, too – but he hasn't reproduced that form in two UK starts for Ryan since being gelded, though he shaped better than the bare result at Doncaster last time.
If soft ground materialises on his first run in handicap company here – the handicapper dropped him 3lb for his Cammidge Trophy ninth last time, where he was beaten under 7 lengths (and the winner Tupi won by four of those) – then he could outclass these.
Richie to try and score in competitive finale
The other two races on ITV4 are of no punting interest to me.
The Duke Of York Stakes at 15:30 looks a cracking renewal but I don't have too many arguments with the prices, and the state of readiness of returning class horses like The Tin Man, albeit he carries a 5lb Group 1 penalty, and Suedois could decide who wins this. Brando probably deserves to be favourite but there isn't a lot of juice in his price.
Like everyone else, I expect Shutter Speed to dot up at 1/3 in the Musidora at 16:05 so let's move on.
Over to RUK for the last three races, Battered looks to hold solid enough claims in the 7f handicap at 16:35 and he will interest those who want an each-way bet against the favourite Chessman.
Chessman holds entries in the Commonwealth Cup and July Cup and the form of his return second at Newbury could not have worked out better. Well it could have, if you are splitting hairs.
Only three horses (bar the winner) have come out of the Newbury race. The third and fifth, Winning Ways and Zamjar, won next time and the sixth, Graphite Storm, was beaten a short head at Ascot last week.
Off a 3lb higher mark, he could take some stopping but Battered may be the win and place alternative for some, though the problem for me is the booking of Ryan Moore has probably shaved a point or two off his price and he is unproved on anything softer than good.
But he found only the runaway scorer Comedy School too good here in a big field last October, and is likely to step up on a decent fourth at Lingfield now he returns to the Knavesmire for a fourth time. He is owned by William Haggas' father, Brian, who presumably likes a runner or two here at his local track.
No bet for me at the prices, though, and that is certainly true of the 2yo 5f novice at 17:05 but the concluding 1m4f handicap at 17:35 is very interesting and Richie McCaw stands out.
Feel free to deck any would-be comedian who tells you he is a rucking good bet, though, as he certainly isn't bombproof. His draw in 19 or 20 may or may not be a disadvantage if it turns testing, he is unproven on anything softer than good, his stamina is an unknown and he is also tried in a first-time hood. So, hardly as solid as you like.
But I was quite taken by the way in which he stuck on over 1m2f on his last two starts, including when fourth here last October.
He shaped like a horse crying out for a step up to 1m4f – and, although by Zamindar, he is also a half-brother to three smart 1m4f winners – and a gelding operation since could have aided his physical development from three to four.
His trainer Ian Williams has already got 20 Flat winners on the board this season and, although his record with first-time hoods isn't earth-shattering – he is 1 from 13 since 2013 – I do think this is a horse who has the potential to rate a lot higher than his current mark of 77. Back him at [11.0] or bigger.
I will have a speculative, small-stakes saver on Peterhouse, though.
One of his better runs came when he was a head second over course and distance, on good to soft ground, in September, and he has shaped pretty well on his two starts this season considering he has been very slowly away.
He has been tried in cheekpieces before but, given those tardy, recent starts, it could be that trying him in a visor today could concentrate his mind.
His trainer Jason Ward has form figures of 14P1351 when trying his horses in a first-time visor since 2014 – the winners came at 12/1, 5/1 and 4/1 – and that is a bet-inducing stat to me. Back him at [21.0] or bigger.
Back Awake My Soul at [34.0] or bigger in 14:20 at York
Back Two For Two at [20.0] or bigger in 14:20 at York
Back Ride Like The Wind at [17.0] or bigger in 14:55 at York
Back Richie McCaw at [11.0] or bigger in 17:35 at York
Back Peterhourse at [26.0] or bigger in 17:35 at York