By Geoffrey Riddle
Talk about a hospital pass. While regular columnist Andy Stephens buries his head in the formbook this weekend in preparation for the Cheltenham Festival it has fallen to yours truly to take up the How To Bet Your £20 baton. Lucky me.
For those who read the Financial Times at the weekend if this was the How To Spend It Magazine I would simply suggest finding a nice, cosy pub near you, ordering a deep-filled steak and kidney pie and few pints of Guinness and tell you to forget the racing and the snowy weather. There are sure to be more pleasant ways of trying to make money at Prestbury Park in 11 days.
That is hardly the remit, however, and I have sifted through the action at Lingfield, which still must pass a morning inspection, for the best wagers of the weekend.
If anybody saw the turgid stuff at Southwell on Friday, it is easy to see why I am keen to avoid the Bumpers For Jumpers card at Newcastle. The Surrey venue actually stages a decent card, and such has been the Blitz spirit of some of the participants in getting there, and the commendable largesse of the course at putting them up, that you have got to hope the fixture goes ahead just to warm the cockles.
The opening event of the action at Lingfield sees Hugo Palmer’s Humbert try to make it four in succession in the Play For Free At Sunbets.co.uk/vegas Handicap.
The son of Kodiac is clearly improving, and slowly ironing out his tendency to race freely, but with little pace in the race the returning James Doyle may not be able to get the best out of him.
The only pace angle I can find is Poet’s Society who, unfortunately for Joe Fanning, is drawn eight. Fanning may well chance his luck and try to poach the lead, but however he approaches this race the fact is that Poet’s Society was edged out by Humbert by a head when they met at Wolverhampton in January.
Poet’s Society has a 5lb turnaround, which, at the prices, could well be enough if he gets the race run to suit. The 12-1 on offer just looks silly, but go each-way. Bet365 are 1/4 the odds the first three but are two points shorter at 10-1 so pay your money and take your chance.
Ryan Moore looks to have a gilt-edged opportunity of riding a few winners, one of which I hope is Encore D’Or in the Betway Handicap.
Ever since Ocean Tempest shrugged off an indifferent campaign at Meydan to win the Lincoln Handicap at 20-1 on his first start since returning from Dubai in 2014 I have been interested in horses who have disliked the Carnival on their first few starts here in Britain.
It makes sense that these type of horses run well as the Carnival is such an intense experience and some horses simply do not take to it. They are obviously much fitter than the domestic group, too.
Encore D’Or came within an ace of doing an Ocean Tempest a week ago when he was denied by Gracious John in a Listed event at the course.
The performance took his record at the track to two wins and two placings from five starts and with trainer Robert Cowell in decent from an admittedly small sample over the past few weeks the six-year-old looks a fair price to overturn dubious favourite Atletico, who has been beaten by a head twice already in 2018.
Headway looked solid Group Two material when second to Rajasinghe in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Even at that stage of career the stiff finish looked to suit him and by the way he finished up the hill and his dead-heat third to Sands Of Mali in the Gimcrack Stakes at York the seven furlongs on Saturday in the Listed 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes looks right up his street.
Finishing in the podium places in Graded contests on good to firm and firm ground in summer will be mightily different on standard all-weather in the freezing wastes of Lingfield on Saturday against five rivals. He looks short at 6-4.
With that in mind, Jeremy Noseda’s Lansky could well be a decent play at bigger prices. He was a very taking winner on his debut over six furlongs at Windsor in August, when he did almost everything wrong, but he still came up smelling of roses by doing all his best work at the finish.
I thought he would be best stepped up in trip to seven furlongs, but he had his only try over the distance just nine days later when third in the Acomb. He switched back to six furlongs when behind James Garfield again before making mincemeat of an easy field on his first try on the all-weather at Kempton in October.
Headway is by Havana Gold, who has a rotten record as a sire of artificial surface talent, while Lansky is by Dark Angel, a sire whose progeny flourish on all-weather.
Ryan Moore is an obvious plus in the saddle, but especially so at the Surrey course which he rides so well.
I’m willing to take the chance at 11-4, although Bengali Boys looks big at 6-1, too. Basically, I’m opposing the favourite, and may even put those two in a reverse exacta.
I was going to go to Meydan for my final bet, because on all known form and how the race will be run it seems almost impossible to see how Doug Watson’s Storyboard will lose the Mina Rashid Handicap at 1.45pm.
He is fast improving, and is drawn right on the rail, which has proved to be a golden highway all season. I did like the claims of some of his rivals, but Bois De Boulogne, Tried And True and Grand Argentier will not be able to capitalise on their draw as hold-up horses, while the last named is drawn too wide.
The market makes Storyboard Evens, however, which looks just too short.
Geoffrey Riddle's How To Bet Your £20 on Saturday:
1.45 Lingfield: £5 each-way on Poet's Society at a generally available 12-1
2.55 Lingfield: £5 win on Lansky at 11-4
3.30 Lingfield: £5 win Encore D'Or at 4-1
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