Turf Talk: Recognition at last for the real McCoy

Adam Brookes
Adam Brookes

THERE is no other way to begin this column than to echo the thoughts of not just the racing industry but, for once, the greater sporting world, in our appreciation of Sports Personality of the Year 2010, the unquestionably great AP McCoy.

All within racing know that we’ll never see his like again and we’re just delighted that his achievements, the pinnacle of which was possibly his victory on Don’t Push It in this year’s Grand National, have been recognised by the wider public and media.

It’s a tough time for racing at the moment, with numerous factions of the industry bickering over future plans, ideas and recommendations, yet it has been heartening as to how well everyone in this great sport has stood firmly behind National Hunt racing’s talisman and here’s hoping this can kick-start racing’s charge toward a finishing line that provides prosperity.

On with the here and now, but sadly Jumps racing looks well and truly gazumped for the foreseeable future owing to the frost so it looks like we have little option but to turn, once again, to the sand and cross our fingers that we get racing of any kind.

Presuming the biting cold doesn’t prevent Lingfield from going ahead, my first selection has to be Robert Cowell’s bull of a horse, Fantasy Gladiator (2.05), who is in fine form having been placed in his last nine races.

His last run produced a very impressive 3 1/2l victory and although I would doubt whether he’ll be able to reproduce that winning margin against better horses, I don’t expect him to have reached the ceiling off his ability just yet, despite a seven pound hike in the ratings.

Some might argue that this giant gelding prefers Kempton as his form figures at the track read 13311, but whilst his Lingfield form figures of 332 are blatantly not as good, that simply tells me that he handles the identical surface at both course but may find it slightly easier going right-handed (Kempton) to going left (Lingfield). In my opinion, this isn’t enough to suggest that the track here will have a significantly detrimental effect on his chances.

A factor that could conspire against him however, is a slow pace as he likes to cruise through beaten horse after an end-to-end gallop. Sadly, this is a very real possibility as the only horse in the line-up who is likely to make the running is Mafeking, and he is by no means a tearaway. It’s worth noting that should he get a soft lead, he may be difficult to peg back and in-running punters might want to keep a beady eye on him and the way the race develops, but should the selection settle, he’ll come storming home.

Crossing over to Kempton, the 12 furlong Class 5 handicap (5.25) has the shape of a very intriguing race owing to the entries of New Code and Kitty Wells.

Gary Moore purchased New Code out of Willie Muir’s yard at the Newmarket Horses In Training Sales recently after the gelding had won 3 of his last 4 races. That run has now been extended to 4 of his last 5 after he scored on his first run for his new trainer over course and distance a little over a week ago. Consequently he holds very strong claims in this, but, and it’s a big but, his likely position as firm favourite could mean we get an attractive price about Kitty Wells who has the guidance of Kieren Fallon on her back,

This 3-year-old maiden daughter of the great Sadler’s Wells showed nothing in her first two runs and only showed average ability last time, but as a result she has been given what could soon appear to be a lowly handicap mark of 68. With further improvement expected now that she has stepped up to a mile and a half, I would be confident that she’ll put up a bold show and could just be value to topple New Code close home.

The final selection is the very lightly-raced Private Joke (6.25) who takes on our man Fallon on Norman Orpen in the mile handicap later on the same card.

This gelded son of Oasis Dream only made his debut in late November where he finished an encouraging second, before breaking his maiden next time out at odds of 1/5 at Wolverhampton. Whilst that was a very poor race, the handicapper will have been scratching his head as to how to rate this horse and the mark he’s arrived at is probably about right in 75, which is high enough to rate him out of poor races, but leaves him a little bit of scope to climb the ladder should he be good enough. That is the question however, but I think he just could end up being a 80+ horse in the near future.

Likely favourite Norman Orpen is a huge danger but I just have reservations over his recent form as I don’t think it has worked out. Therefore there’s the possibility that he has been going up the ratings for beating very average horses in small fields. That said, he should still be improving and there’s every chance he’ll win again here but of the two, I’d have to side with unknown quantity in Private Joke.

SELECTIONS

Wednesday, December 22

2.05 (Ling) Fantasy Gladiator

5.25 (Kemp) Kitty Wells

6.25 (Kemp) Private Joke