Day three of the Newmarket Craven meeting is upon us with the feature race of the meeting The Craven Stakes due off at 15:35. The ground is drying and is now officially good to soft. The ITV Racing cameras are also at Cheltenham to bring us the opener there. The ground there is also drying and is currently good. Here are my thoughts on the five races covered by ITV today.
A bumper turnout of eighteen mares competing for this 2m 4F 56 yard Naf Challenger mares’ Hurdle Final. This has a wide-open look about it with many of these coming into this contest in good form. One of those is Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero’s Windtothelightning who’s chasing a four-timer and has conditions to suit. Philip Kirby’s Lone Star is another on a roll and she’s going for five wins on a bounce although this is easily her stiffest task.
One horse down the bottom of the handicap that may be worth risking is Alastair Ralph’s Well Vicky. She moved into handicaps at Hereford back In February and easily ran up a hat trick of handicap hurdle victories on good ground rising some 23lb. She was a tad disappointing last time at Chepstow when 4th to the re-opposing Dollar Bae beaten 8 1/4L (now 7lb better off). That was run on soft ground though and back on the genuine good ground is worth an each-way bet to small stakes under Ciaran Gethings who takes the reigns on this six-year-old mare for the first time.
WELL VICKY 1 point each way @ 16/1 with BetVictor 1/5th 12345
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An intriguing 6F three-year-old class 2 handicap for those rated 81-100 has attracted a healthy-sized field of 15. Charlie Appleby won this two years ago with his smart sprinter Creative Force and unleashes an interesting handicap debutant here in Changing Colours who’s been gelded since last seen. By all accounts, he’s been working well and an initial mark of 88 may underestimate his ability.
Clive Cox’s Kerdos shouldn’t lack anything in fitness having run well on his handicap debut at Lingfield on the all-weather last month. He’s up 2lb for that but having already won on the easy ground as a juvenile should be thereabouts. Top weight Shouldhavebeenaring comes here having run well throughout the winter on the synthetic surfaces and can also run well especially with young Alec Voikhansky claiming a valuable 7lb.
William Haggas sends his Dark Angel filly Pinafore to make her handicap debut and could be well treated off of only 82 if straight enough. She followed up a Yarmouth second to a smart Gosden horse in Ananda (holds 1000 Guineas entry) with a comfortable victory in a 6F Kempton novices stakes last September. That contest has subsequently thrown up five individual winners and looks decent enough form now.
I’ll take her and the Godolphin runner Changing Colours against the field.
PINNAFORE 1 point win @ 8/1 with Bet365
CHANGING COLOURS 1 point win @ 5/1 with Bet365
Nine well bred unraced three year old’s line up for this year’s renewal of the Wood Ditton Stakes run over the straight Rowley Mile. John and Thady Gosden has won the last two runnings of this famous race and saddle the Roaring Lion grey Enrico Caruso who’s a half-brother to three winners and has to be respected.
William Haggas unleashes a well-bred Shadwell gelding by Kingman in Kathab who cost 180,000F and it will be interesting to see how he goes in the market. Haggas also runs a well-related Sea The Stars colt called Syllabus. Other big stables represented here include Sir Michael Stoute with a Ulysses colt who will be ridden by Ryan Moore, Andrew Balding’s New Business who was the most expensive of these sold at public sale for 240,000Y by Sea The Stars. Simon and Ed Crisford saddle a brace in Penzance and Tribute.
A minefield of a race with no form to go on and with no market clues as yet it’s a no-bet race for me though is a race to watch closely with the future in mind.
Nine go to post for the Group 3 Abernant Stakes run over 6F. We have a very warm favourite here in the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Force who is unbeaten in three starts at the track. He’s officially the highest-rated of the nine and will be hard to beat if ready to go following a 166-day absence. He actually failed to win last season hence no penalty today but was placed in the top grade 1 sprint company and this represents a drop in class for the William Buick-ridden five-year-old. He has to be the selection here. Charlie Hill’s Garrus can chase him home with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Runner up in this contest last year he is a smart sprinter on his day and comes here on the back of a run in Saudia Arabia only 54 days ago. The drying ground seems to have gone for the only filly in the race Fast Response whilst Ehraz holds each-way claims for Richard Hannon and Jim Crowley. This is all about Creative Force though who can power home and start his season with a well-deserved victory.
CREATIVE FORCE 3 points win @ 11/8 with Betfred
The Craven Stakes is the first trial of the season for the 2000 Guineas which is only 17 days away. It has Group 3 status and is run over a mile, the same trip as the 2000 Guineas. This year we have a field of 8 interesting colts including a brace from the Charlie Appleby stable who have won this contest on three of the last four years. There are rumours that Naval Power, who was apparently lame at the weekend, may not run leaving just Mysterious Night as the boys in blue representative.
William Buick will ride and he was last seen running out an easy 5 3/4L winner of a grade 1 contest at Woodbine last September. He’s not the highest rated in the field mind, that honour goes to the Andrew Balding’s trained The Foxes who steadily improved throughout last season culminating in a Group 2 success in a four-runner Royal Lodge over the course and distance in September. That form has worked out very well with the 2nd and 3rd both winning group races since. At today’s prices, he may well be the value with the experience of the Rowley Mile a big bonus.
John and Thady Gosden saddle a very interesting runner in Mostabshir who looked a colt of immense talent when bolting up on his racecourse debut at Kempton on the all-weather last September. Owned by Shadwell he could be anything. The Chaldean form is brought to the table by the Karl Burke-trained Indestructible who has joined Burke from Michael O’Callaghan but remains in the same ownership of Amo Racing. As always an intriguing race with a slight preference for the Balding runner The Foxes.
THE FOXES 1 point each way @ 5/1 with Bet365
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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