Ashforth's Alternative View: Avoid backing these winners for an English Classic

By David Ashforth@davidjashforth
Tue 16 Apr 2019

Some things, admittedly not many, are even more important than the first day of Newmarket’s Craven meeting.

It would be nice if you reached the end of the week with some of your ante-post bets for the Classics intact but even nicer if, having the misfortune to have testicular cancer, you were diagnosed early as the result of examining yourself in the shower and treated quickly.

If diagnosed early enough, there is a very high rate of cure.

So it’s excellent news that the QIPCO British Champions Series has joined up with Movember, the men’s health charity best known for encouraging moustaches in November, to raise awareness of testicular cancer and encourage men to examine themselves regularly.

It’s the most common cancer among young men – the 18 to 34 age group is the one most at risk - so it’s fitting that jockeys Oisin Murphy, 23, Charlie Bishop, 25, and Tom Marquand, 21, have answered the call to help raise awareness as part of Movember’s Know Thy Nuts campaign.

Meanwhile, out of the shower, it’s the day of the European Free Handicap (2.25), Feilden Stakes (3.00) and Nell Gwyn Stakes (3.35).

They are all important guides to the English Classics and you should take careful note of this year’s winners. When you have noted their names, pick up a red pen and cross them out because they are very unlikely to win an English Classic.

I don’t mean to be a killjoy but the last time a winner of the European Free Handicap went on to win the 2000 Guineas was when Mystiko did the trick in 1991. It was jolly nice for trainer Clive Brittain and owner Lady Beaverbrook, who was brilliant at marrying rich, elderly men and was once painted by Salvador Dali but Mystiko was one of the worst Guineas’ winners in modern times.

Golden Horn’s victory in the 2015 Derby added much needed Classic lustre to the Feilden Stakes because if there’s another horse to have completed the Feilden Stakes and Derby double, I’ve missed it.

As to the Nell Gwyn, the last winner to win the 1000 Guineas was Speciosa in 2006. She was nothing special, as her failure to win in nine subsequent races testified. No offence to trainer and part-owner Pam Sly, jockey Micky Fenton or anyone who backed her intended.

Part of the trouble is that I’ve never been able to fully understand the appeal of Newmarket’s Rowley Mile course, certainly not without a big screen or powerful pair of binoculars. You stand there in the cold wind (it’s probably blowing in from the Arctic) and try to decide which of the three groups they’ve divided themselves into is in front and where the horses in each group are in relation to each other.

They’re coming straight at you. Perhaps they should rotate the track so that it’s at a better angle to the stands, or put the stands on rails, so they can move along as the horses do. I hope that helps.

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