One for the Watch List from the Sodexo....

Last Updated: 05.11.2019

Tuesday, 5th November 2019

One for the Watch List from the Sodexo….

Kim Bailey’s Vinndication won last Saturday’s Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot....

I had a few words to say about that yesterday – putting that performance into its proper perspective. If you missed that, you can catch up here....

But there’s still a bit more to say and a couple of worthwhile observations to make....

  • The Regal fire still burns bright....

Anthony Honeyball’s Regal Encore may be an 11yo now, but the fires still evidently burn bright under the right circumstances....

And Ascot is very much a right circumstance....

But for bumping into a quality up-and-coming winner on Saturday, the battle-hardened veteran of 38 career races would have recorded his fourth career victory over fences and his third such victory at Ascot....

That Ascot win record – which now reads two wins from seven (with a couple of additional places chucked in for good measure) – doesn’t quite tell the full story though....

It doesn’t quite impress on the casual observer that this horse is at his very best at the Berkshire venue....

Four of his best five chase performances have been produced at the track (Saturday’s effort rates fifth on that list)....

And he must be of interest whenever he runs there....

  • The right way....

He was the last horse to be scrubbed off my shortlist for Saturday’s race....  

I scratched him because I hadn’t much liked his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow.

But back at his favourite track  he came on a bundle for that run. With the benefit of hindsight, I probably should have seen it coming....

But no matter. There are no prizes for being clever after the event. We all know for sure what will happen once the race has been run....

I merely raise the issue to deliver one or two observations that grow out of the situation and which are worth noting....

One. This horse likes Ascot. We’ve established that. But right-handed courses generally are the thing. Six of his best seven performance over fences have been at Ascot or Punchestown (both right-handers)....

Two. He was unlucky to meet one on Saturday. But this horse clearly still has something about him and in his current physical condition (a wind-op in August appears not to have done any harm) he can gain compensation in the right circumstances. Especially when you consider he was rated 8lbs below his last winning mark at the weekend....

He’s in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury – a race he ran third in off 150 back in 2017. I wouldn’t discount him going well, but I would suspect he might find one or two too good in that hot contest again. But back at Ascot in the Lavazza Silver Cup in December, he would certainly be of interest....

  • One for the Watch List....

Vinndication took the headlines on Saturday – rightly so....

And Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side did his reputation no harm at all with a 4th-place finish that should bring him on towards full fitness for a tilt at the Ladbrokes Trophy or some other pre-Christmas target....

But another lightly-raced type who should come on for Saturday’s race and who might be flying under the radar is Harry Fry’s Acting Lass – and that’s the one I’ll be adding to the Watch List....

On the face of it, finishing 9th of 16 runners and getting beaten 27-lengths is not a particularly glowing statement of readiness to win – but there’s more to it than that....

Saturday’s race was only the 8yo’s second run since February 2018 and his first since the spring. He’s had his problems, but I thought he ran an encouraging race under a first-time ride from Sean Bowen....

  • An encouraging return....

He was out the back early doors. And my impression was that he was being given his own time in which to readjust and reacclimatise to competitive racing....

His jumping was a little indifferent and out to his left but he was travelling comfortably enough and Bowen coaxed him up the inside in the mid stages to take more of a part in the race proper....

He was making a forward move in the third quarter of the race when some of the others were already starting to flag, and for a moment or two at least, it looked like he was coming to play a part in the finish....

Ultimately, he didn’t. He faded out of it. But he was entitled to. He hasn’t had much racing.  And this contest was always more likely to be a sighter than a hard target....

But the time for hard targeting will come and the horse (who has only had six goes in total over fences) will be fitter and more prepared for it as a result of contesting Saturday’s race....

He wants soft ground – that much is for sure. And there will be opportunities for him in the weeks ahead. He might have a spin over hurdles before going for the Becher at Aintree. That’s one route mentioned as a possibility by connections.....

Our Watch List....

Races deliver a result that doesn’t change. Once a race is over, most punters simply move on to the next....

But here at ATC we take the view that races represent the most current source of information about horses that didn’t win – and are worth taking the time to study in detail....

Where we believe a horse has advertised its readiness to win, we add that horse to our Watch List – and we keep those horses on the list for a period of 90 days or until they do what we hope and win a race (hopefully at a nice price)....

We don’t advise backing them blind – but only when conditions and opposition are suitable, and the price acceptable....

  • Well handicapped in my book....

Wherever Acting Lass goes and however his campaign pans out, the thing about it is this: the horse is rated 143 over fences (just 137 over hurdles) and in my estimation he’s well-handicapped on that mark....

He was up to 149 at one point as a novice. He’s been dropped a few pounds since then owing to prolonged absence and to a brace of defeats on ground quicker than he would have appreciated....

The handicapper might well have been a little generous. It has been known. And at some point Fry will produce his horse to capitalize. I am sure of that....

Saturday’s race was a step along that path. It was also an opportunity for horse and rider to forge a new partnership. Nothing happens all at once....

Acting Lass goes onto the Watch List as a winner in waiting in my book....

  • A final word….

Acting Lass has never gone left-handed yet in nine career runs....

Given that the horse was jumping out left early doors on Saturday (and not for the first time), it may be worth a go that way. He might well improve for it....

But Harry Fry will know that. Who am I to tell him his business?

Maybe the Becher (Acting Lass is a big horse who might take to the Grand National fences) is where that improvement will come to pass....

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more handicap-focused insight and analysis....

We’ll be looking ahead to the weekend....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd