No clear end in sight for our current ‘lockdown’ situation and at the time of writing also no clear plan for what exactly will be happening with the 2020 flat season (which is understandable).
Will we get any kind of flat season? Will the entire season be kiboshed? As things stand it’s impossible to call…
If we do indeed manage to get horses on the track this summer I think it’s fair to assume it will have a strange feel to it and not exactly be run as a ‘standard’ season.
From my own perspective I suspect I won’t be getting deeply involved over the summer months. In the NTF Members area I’ve already been hard planning for the 2020/21 National Hunt season, although even that comes with a question mark over how and when it will begin. I’m playing it relatively safe though and going with the theory that everything will be (pretty much) back to normal come October time, although even that can’t really be accurately called…
I won’t, however, be completely ignoring the flat game, as always I do have a mountain of notes that I compiled from the last flat campaign and it would be foolish not to make use of that work.
Plenty of my flat work/punting revolves around unexposed handicappers and although my betting activities on 2yo’s would be minimal at best they are a bunch I watch closely, with a view to pinpointing those that have managed to attain an eye-catching handicap mark (intentionally or unintentionally) for their 3yo season.
I’ve spent the last couple days picking through my notes and have cherry-picked five such types who I feel should be visiting the winners enclosure (if they get the opportunity!) when entering handicaps this summer…
Five 3yo Handicappers for the 2020 Flat season…
FINEST SOUND (S Crisford)
Opening Handicap Mark OR 82
Simon Crisford’s Exceed And Excel gelding ran three solid races in his juvenile campaign, finishing third on each occasion.
The first of those runs came at Sandown on the 30th August, a race where he broke slowly before coming through to challenge the clear winner in the final 100yds, only losing second in the dying strides. The two that finished ahead of him that day both won next time out (their only other starts of the campaign) with the winner – Palace Pier – now rated OR 98.
Finest Sound turned up a Sandown again for his second start, again running third. The second horse that day – Never Alone – has won two of his following three starts and finds himself rated OR 87.
His final start of the season saw him rock up at Newmarket in a Class 4 Novice. He made a telling move that day between the 2-furlong and 1-furlong poles but found himself unable to cope with the finishing kick of the impressive Kinross (who won by 8L) and the Saeed Bin Suroor trained Raaeb. Kinross went on to start as 13/8 fav for the G1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes next time out whilst Raaeb ran three more times, pulling in a form line of 1-4-2 and finding himself rated on the lofty enough perch of OR 97. Also worth noting that the fourth horse home – Al Qaqaa – was only beaten a head next time out and the fifth horse home – the Aiden O’Brien trained Vatican City – won next time out and now finds himself rated OR 93.
FINEST SOUND showed plenty of greenness and inexperience on all three of his starts so Crisford has wasted no time at all in giving his youngster the snip (😖) and I’d expect the 3yo to have his mind firmly on the job in hand this summer.
Looking at the horses he was mixing it with last term and the marks a few of them now find themselves on, it would be a disappointment should Finest Sound not manage to take advantage of his current rating of OR 82 when entering the handicap arena.
JELLYSTONE (R BECKETT)
Opening Handicap Mark OR 75
Four starts as a juvenile for Ralph Beckett’s son of Kodiac and although he failed to place on any of those starts there was enough shown from the youngster to suggest he one that’s worth keeping on the radar for a future career in handicaps.
His first two efforts showed a mix of promise and greenness and he put those runs to good use of his third start of the campaign, with a strong finishing 4th over a mile at Kempton, beaten only a length come the line. The winner that day – First View – won again next time out and currently finds himself on a mark of OR 90, despite having a somewhat disappointing start to his 3yo career in four down the field runs at Meydan. The second horse – Stanford – also won next time out before firing in two runners-up efforts and is currently rated OR 79. The third horse – Lord Neiden – is now rated OR 78 and the sixth home – Ya Hayati – won his next two starts and is currently parked on OR 92. All in all the race has produced six winning performances (from 5 horses) and stands up well on the form front.
Jellystone’s final start of the season came on heavy ground at Newbury and although he wasn’t disgraced in 6th he probably wasn’t really enjoying the testing conditions. The race has actually worked out strongly enough since, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th pulling in form figures of… 2-1-1-2-3-2 (6 runs – 2 wins, 4 places)… and the first four home now rated 89-84-101-78. So again another solid piece of form to work with and more evidence that OR 75 looks a tidy mark for Jellystone to be starting the season on.
He’s another that has had the snip in the off season, with Beckett looking to make sure the youngster has his mind firmly set on the job at hand, and it surely won’t be long before his mark of OR 75 is left far behind.
NAIZAGAI (R Varian)
Opening Handicap Mark OR 80
Another poor bugger that has been given the snip in the off season…
The Dark Angel gelding was given three quick spins at the back end of last season (14th Oct – 1st Nov – 28th Nov), placing on all three and gaining a mark of OR 80.
On the first of those runs (a third at Yarmouth) he had the John Gosden trained Mishriff 1.25L behind him in 4th, with that one now rated OR 101 and holding entries for both the English & Irish 2000 Guineas (if we ever get to see those races!).
He improved on that effort on his next start with a second placed effort at Newmarket, with the third horse – Celestran – winning next time out to boost the form.
His third and final start was up in trip over a mile at Lingfield, where he just failed to reel in the pace-setting Transition from the Amanda Perrett yard, a horse that won next time out and finds itself on a handicap mark of OR 83.
It won’t take much of a step forward in form for Naizagai to be winning in handicap company and Varian should be able to find an opening relatively easily.
DAMAGE CONTROL (A Balding)
Opening Handicap Mark OR 79
Still a maiden after four starts as a juvenile and yep, you guessed, he was gelded during the winter months!
Balding squirreled in four relatively rapid runs for this son of Zoffany at the back end of the season, with his first run on the 5th of September and the final run on the 23rd of October, standard handicapping practice whilst all the time making sure the youngster was gaining enough experience for a tilt at some handicap pots in his 3yo season.
He was never really put into things on his racecourse debut at Salisbury but he wasn’t beaten all that far in 7th (5L) and the race itself has a very solid form look to it, with 20 subsequent runs producing a hefty TEN winners and a further 3 placed efforts, two of those victories coming at G3 level. The winner that day – Kenzai Warrior – is now rated OR 102 and the second home – Max Vega – is rated a rather lofty OR 110, so Damage Control getting to within 5L of that pair suddenly looks alright!
He next found himself taking in a C4 Novice at Bath, a race where he ran green and could only finish a 3.5L 4th. The form of that race has been boosted since, however, with the second – So I Told You – and the fifth – Midnights Legacy – both winning next time out (their only other starts of the season.
Damage Control put in an improved effort on his next run, finishing 2L second to the Charlie Fellows trained King Carney in a C2 Maiden at Nottingham, with the Fellows horse winning next time out in a Listed contest at Pontefract and now finding itself rated OR 102.
Balding decided to get one more run into his youngster but a mix of a change of tactics (they went from the front) and a step up in trip (up 2f to 1m2f) played against him and he finished a 7L 5th.
Given the ratings some of the horses he’s been mixing it with now find themselves on it’s surely only a matter of time before he breaks his maiden and finds himself in the winners enclosure, especially when Balding decides to head down the handicap route and take advantage of what looks a very attractive mark.
REEHAAM (J Gosden)
Opening Handicap Mark OR 72
I actually noted this Kingman filly after her debut effort at Ascot in July, a race where she finished 9L 4th.
Since then the three ahead of her have backed up the form nicely and now find themselves on the following marks…
Cloak Of Spirits – OR 106
Queen Daenerys – OR 103
Game And Set – OR 88
…whilst Reehaam sits on OR 72 🤨
The filly wasn’t actually seen on the racetrack again for another 104 days, when Gosden decided to give her two quick ‘down the field’ spins at Chelmsford to secure a favourable handicap mark for the youngster (something you’d have to say was firmly ‘job done’).
It would be unthinkable to image Gosden not managing to get this daughter of Kingman winning when entering handicap company and although she’s unlikely to be mixing it with the best, she’s almost certainly going to prove better than OR 72.
I’d be hopeful of all five of these 3yo’s managing to pick off a Handicap or two at some stage this season, providing, of course, we get a flat season (🤞) and all of them should be capable of leaving their current handicap marks well behind.
I’m off to dive back into my mountain of notes again (well, after I’ve worked through some of the jobs Mrs NTF has kindly listed for me to get done around the house/garden…😟) and I’ll hopefully have a few more of these types for you to add to your own trackers over the next week or two.
Stay safe and stay sane out there, we WILL get through this…