Excellent Guest able to take the guessing out of trick track
Royal Hunt Cup second can make most of inside draw to go one better in big mile handicap
Friday 03 August 2012
Goodwood may indeed be glorious, especially when the sun is shining and Frankel is strutting his stuff, but it can also be maddeningly unfair.
Sharp, right-handed bends and downhill dashes to the winning line make this a unique venue and its general quirkiness puts a premium on good fortune, most notably in today's most valuable contest, the Betfred Mile Heritage Handicap.
Luck plays a huge part even before the 20 runners step out on to the track, the effect of the draw being so pronounced that once it was made public on Wednesday, the odds of those drawn close to the inside rail (low) were slashed, while those drawn high were shoved just as dramatically in the opposite direction.
The most high-profile of the victims (drawn one from the outside) was the long-time ante-post favourite, Trade Commissioner, but in the event he was withdrawn after not eating up.
It's not impossible to win this particular race from an outside berth, but the evidence suggests it is most unlikely. Only Laa Rayb, in 2009, has triumphed from a double-figure draw this millennium and he had the luck of the devil finding the gaps after being switched inside at the start.
Several of those in the bottom half of the handicap have been given the chance of a major pay day, but even those advantaged by the draw will need the breaks unless they like to front-run clear of trouble. Excellent Guest (3.10), beaten narrowly for another big handicap prize at Royal Ascot, has the attributes to win this and is drawn in stall three, but he likes to come fairly late on the scene and will need some luck in running, something he didn't find on a subsequent visit to Ascot last month.
Mark Johnston usually returns to his base in North Yorkshire from this meeting with a big handicap or two in the bag and the reasonably drawn Fulbright will be a popular choice to complete a quick hat-trick, but this may well be Excellent Guest's day.
If only everything in racing were as uncomplicated as Hamish McGonagall (3.45). Punters love a horse who just goes out there and races as fast as he can for as long as he can and there will be no more popular winner of the Group Two Gordon's King George Stakes.
Hamish McGonagall has never won a Group race of any description, but he went close to winning the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at York last summer and, though now a seven-year-old, seems to be still improving.
Tim Easterby's sprinter has never run at Goodwood, either, but one would imagine this sharp course will suit his no-nonsense approach perfectly – his 10 career victories have come at York, Musselburgh or Chester, all fast tracks.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Excellent Guest (3.10 Goodwood) Runner-up to Prince Of Johanne in the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot in June and has a great opportunity to turn the tables on this sharper track with a good draw.
Aljamaaher (2.35 Goodwood) Improving as he learns to settle and put up his best performance to date when going close at Royal Ascot last time. Another with a good draw and this extra furlong should suit.
One to watch
Pearl Sea (David Brown) Did not really need to improve to get off the mark at the third attempt at Goodwood on Wednesday, but did it in style and has the scope to go on to better things.
Where the money's going
Veteran sprinter Borderlescott, winner of the Stewards' Cup in 2006 and also placed the following two years, has been backed for another big showing. He's now just 16-1 after 33-1 was laid earlier in the week for tomorrow's running.
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