The one certainty on Saturday is that the ground at Haydock is going to be attritional. Conditions at the Lancashire venue are already heavy and plenty more rain is forecast before racing starts.
Some will give the meeting a swerve for punting purposes with unseasonably deep conditions on the cards but I’m more than happy to play because we know exactly the kind of horse that will be required.
We’ve got ample time to identify the mudlarks and Billy Ocean was right when he belted out in the mid 1980s that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
The tricky part, as always, is identifying those tough ones in advance.
The progressive Safe Voyage is on a roll and the right favourite for the John Of Gaunt Stakes (3.35) but the 12-1 on offer about Snazzy Jazzy is hard to resist.
He’s presumably that price because he lacks a recent run and was below-par the one previous time he ran over 7f, but I don’t imagine Clive Cox has left him short of work for this Group Three prize and he’s consistently been so strong at the finish over 6f, and slightly further, that the extra furlong may be a positive rather than a negative.
When the four-year-old has raced on ground that has been soft or heavy, his form reads 1111 and they have not been easy assignments.
His penultimate win in the mud came in the 23-runner Ayr Silver Cup in September off a mark of 91 and he signed off for the year with a pattern-race victory in France, when the support cast included leading Diamond Jubilee Stakes contender Inns Of Court.
Snazzy Jazzy’s reverse over 7f came on a sound surface almost 14 months ago and it could well be a red herring.
For example, as a juvenile he kept on stoutly to land a 29-runner sales’ race over an extended 6f on soft ground at the Curragh and that points to him lasting home, especially in a race devoid of habitual front-runners that may well in any case develop into a sprint.
Another 14-1 chance on the card well worth a second look is Maid In India in the Betway Achilles Stakes (3.00).
Eric Alston’s five-year-old mare is bred to be smart and impressed when winning a Pontefract handicap over 6f on heavy ground in late September.
This is a tougher race but she’s still relatively lightly raced and her pedigree points to her being the type who could take another big jump forwards this year.
Alston has given warning that a few of his runners have been backward for their return runs but he has designs on running Maid Of India in the Wokingham and she is going to need to pick up a penalty to have a chance of making the cut.
Her form when fresh offers encouragement as she won on her debut as a two-year-old, plus on her seasonal reappearance last term.
Mind The Crack, bred to cope with the mud, and True Self have solid prospects in the first two races on the card but they have not been missed in the betting and so my other punt at the meeting will be Gymkhana in the Betway Dash Handicap (4.10).
It could be that the six-year-old has completely gone at the game – he has shaped like a horse with problems in Ireland and was sold cheaply in January – but he’s well handicapped on the pick of his efforts, acts well on bad ground and has his first start for the in-form yard of David O’Meara.
Interestingly, he was a non-runner at Thirsk three week ago on account of the (good) ground. That suggests his new connections are seeking more than just a sighter for his British debut and I’m happy to risk him at the odds on offer with Danny Tudhope in the plate.
I could not find a bet at Newmarket but was tempted by Yarrow Gate in the Hilary Needler at Beverley. However, I was expecting her to be at least a double-figure price and, at no bigger than 8-1, she is also a swerve.
Name The Wind, reverting to the all-weather after finding the 2000 Guineas too much, is the most interesting horse running at Chelmsford (3.40) but my final bet of the day is going to be And The New in the mile-and-a-half handicap at Chepstow (6.00).
At first, I thought wearing cheekpieces was a condition of this modest 0-65 contest (ten of the 17 runners are equipped with that headgear) but it seems not, which is a good job because And The New is one of the few in the line-up who will not sport some kind of headgear.
Useful in National Hunt Flat races (he was beaten under ten lengths when seventh in the 2017 Champion Bumper) and a fair tool over hurdles (rated 132 in that sphere), his mark of 65 for his handicap debut on the level appeals as being lenient.
He was allotted that figure after falling asleep in the stalls on his Flat debut; running over a wholly inadequate mile next time; and then making late gains to finish fourth over course and distance in a novice event last time after being detached in rear for much of the way.
His tendency to start slowly/get behind is a niggle but if he gets out on terms, or nearly on terms, then he simply might outclass this opposition. If the ground eases further, which seems likely, then so much the better as it will bring his stamina even more into play.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
3.35 Haydock: Snazzy Jazzy £2.50 win at a general 12-1
3.35 Haydock: 50p reverse Exacta – Save Voyage and Snazzy Jazzy
4.10 Haydock: Gymkhana £4 win at 20-1 with Coral and Ladbrokes
6.00 Chepstow: And The New £2.50 win at 6-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power
Plus a 50p Win Lucky 15 on all four selections