I’ve focused on the handicaps at Leicester, and it’s fair to say some of these are pretty tightly-knit on a seven-race card live from 5.05pm on Racing TV.
I hope the three contenders below have potential improvement from their latest efforts and offer some mileage at their current prices. I’ll be playing to small each-way stakes.
This race has changed complexion with the withdrawal of likely pace-setter Bint Al Anood and Divine Magic is given the tentative nod to get off the mark.
This does not look a great race for the grade, and he rates one of the more unexposed runners after just one handicap start when a beaten favourite at Nottingham last time.
His last two runs in particular have looked relative tests of speed at the trip, and he drops back from an extended mile to tackle seven furlongs now. A slightly keen-going type, some pace to aim at over this shorter trip could eke out some improvement. While Bint Al Anood missed out, there are a few prominent racers in here – of which Divine Magic is one – and the likes of Eponina, River Song and Wolflet have made the running in the recent past.
Divine Magic receives weight from the better-fancied Cirrus and First Lott once factoring in Marco Ghiani’s 3lb claim. It's a small sample, but Ghiani has ridden 4 winners from 15 rides at Leicester for a level stakes profit of £18 in performance 101% above market expectation. He also has had three seconds.
Trainer Marco Botti has a fairly modest record overall at this track but has fared well in only handicaps, with a 21% strike-rate from 28 runners in performance 27% better than the market has expected.
Cirrus posted her best effort to date under more prominent tactics over a mile, and a similar ploy is likely to be adopted here over this shorter trip. She is yet to win in eight starts though and her handicap mark hasn’t really budged. This is much more realistic for First Lott after her return in the Spring Cup, but she does hang under pressure and her demeanour generally doesn’t inspire in the closing stages.
This is a very tightly-knit handicap and several hold fair claims, but Spanish Star makes the most appeal from a handicapping perspective at 7/1.
He’s only won three times from 39 starts, but he’s finished second or third on 17 occasions and he does receive a decent amount of weight here from the market protagonists, remaining on a mark of 74 after a good run at Ascot last time behind the re-opposing Little Boy Blue and Golden Esteem – a race which could prove the principal form-line here.
Spanish Star was away from the stalls a little awkwardly on his seasonal return, but he travelled very strongly to the two-furlong marker before flattening out and then sticking to his task for third. While he goes well after a break and acts on most ground, he is entitled to come on from that effort and the way he shaped suggested this better ground should help him.
Able Kane is consistent even if he doesn’t win too often, but this course winner should have a decent pace to aim at this time which seems important for him over six furlongs. He just looks a tad too high in the handicap, while everything might have fallen into place for Dancinginthewoods under a good ride from first-time pilot Hollie Doyle last time. Little Boy Blue is much respected after his Ascot win last time, but he’s gone up 4lb since and Spanish Star has a chance to reverse that form this time at the weights.
Grey Fox has been whacked up by 9lb in the handicap for a career-best effort in first-time cheekpieces last time. He has to prove his progress again here now from a much higher rating, but 5/1 odds make that a chance worth taking.
While there is no doubting his superiority last time, that race might have fallen apart to some degree given the strong early pace and he was ridden cold right out the back from a well-judged ride by his good rider, who is back on board again.
Sixteen runners line up here and there should be a uniform decent pace across the track, with pace-setters Bit Of A Quirke, Pot Of Paint and Lockdown Dream berthed in stalls 1, 4 and 11 respectively. Grey Fox is drawn right on the inside in stall 16 and will be ridden similarly to last time. He might need a bit of luck in the closing stages for a clear run, but the likely pace – while not red-hot – looks decent and that looks the most important indicator to his chance.
This race revolves around this horse as the potential “coming force” in this contest. You can’t argue with how he did it last time even if things did pan out nicely, given he came wide right round the outside to challenge and responded generously when asked inside the final furlong and in a fashion which suggests there’s more to come. While that’s his only win so far, he has shown promise on several occasions previously to suggest victory last time was not an anomaly and that first win could augur more progress now.
Broad Appeal has a very good record at this track and has gone well on his seasonal return on more than one occasion. This consistent type looks a tad high in the handicap on the balance of his overall form, but Tyler Saunders helps by taking off 5lb and both could also reward each-way support given the standard four places on offer at 9/1 quotes.
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