It is a case of the lull before the storm in more ways than one, with the weathermen pointing to rain arriving countrywide as we approach the fabulous July Festival Meeting at Newmarket, as well as John Smith's Cup day up at York. It looks as though the rain could well fall in significant quantities, so keep it in mind if you're looking at ante-post bets for the big handicaps this weekend.
Trying to build up the tank too much on a fairly quiet day of racing action could prove foolhardy, but the two 15-runner divisions of the 0-65 handicap at Catterick have both thrown up small-stakes bets - along with the likelihood that at least a couple of firms will offer the extra place to each-way punters.
A modest but consistent performer who can usually be relied upon to give his form for a few runs and he hinted that he was approaching his best last time out. Rebecca Menzies has her team of largely modest horses in good form this season and Paul Mulrennan is booked again, which also adds encouragement.
Searanger is back to a mark 4lb lower than when he won at Thirsk last season and was just a length behind Donnelly’s Rainbow last time when fifth at Carlisle. They meet on the same terms here, but I expect Searanger to show further improvement at a track where he has repeatedly run well.
He has run well off marks in the 60s not long ago and now lingers on 53 and can prove himself wel handicapped, whereas Donnelly’s Rainbow usually manages to find a way of getting beat narrowly in this kind of company. His losing run stretches back to June 2016. He will click one day, but his consistency means he will probably always be fairly short in the betting, so I will wipe my mouth when he does as he deserves to win one but is simply too expensive to follow.
This is absolutely the last time for me with this one as I am definitely approaching the bottom of the well with him but there are enough positive factors here for me to give him another chance.
His trainer Phil Kirby is not having an awful lot of luck off or on the track - witness Shine Baby Shine being carried the width of York’s track the weekend before last on her way to being narrowly run out of the places.
However, the horses he runs with any sort of chance have been showing up well and this one’s handicap mark has plummetted. To back Fingal's Cave you have to be taken in by all sorts of excuses: stumbled at start, wrong trip, bad draws, no run. The list is very long but I am not the only one who has fallen for it as there has been quiet money for him on a couple of his recent starts.
Fingal's Cave has twice won over this seven-furlong trip and the latest course victory was off a mark of 87 - that's ancient history admittedly, but he has run some of his best races here and surely a return to the course can gee him up off a mark of 56!
A little rain will not inconvenience him and Paul Hanagan is booked and has a 20 per cent strike rate for the yard. Everything is in place for a decent run.
Another who has been given respite by the handicapper and returns to the scene of past victory, he hit form off a mark of 62 in early July last year and held it for two months, He showed every sign last time at Newbury that he may well do the same this summer.
He was a 33-1 shot in the race won by a rejuvenated Swift Approval but would have run better than those odds if he had got a gap in time and was only beaten two and a half lengths at the line.
He is below his last winning mark on turf and only 2lb higher than his latest course win and has performed very well at Kempton off 67. The excellent David Egan rides for the first time and I very much hope that the Newbury effort was no false dawn.