Frustrating things

August 12th, 2015 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

One of the most frustrating things for a serious backer, especially one who is looking more towards the long term, is a sudden or unexpected change in the ground.

We have had plenty of occasions in recent years when that has happened, exacerbated sometimes by clerks of the course trying to ensure the ground doesn’t get too firm through premature watering. My view is that watering should only be used to try and ensure safe ground, but sometimes it can go too far and lead to a radical change which, in my view, is wrong.

York’s William Derby is generally considered one of the better clerks, handling media and professional enquiries with both integrity and courtesy. He does, though, face an interesting dilemma in the next few days as the forecaster are predicting the equivalent of a month’s rainfall descending in unspecified areas of the country over the course of Thursday and Friday. With York’s highlight of the year starting on Wednesday, it is no surprise that he has decided not to water the track until seeing what happens on Friday. The forecast from Saturday onwards is for dry weather, so however wet it gets on Friday I would expect the ground to be good or even quicker by the start of the meeting.

As expected Aidan O’Brien has already said that the participation of Gleneagles will depend on there being good quick ground.

The son of Galileo would be tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time which is not, for me, a trip he is bred to suit. His brother Marvellous won the irish 1,000 Guineas but was soundly beaten in both the English and Irish Oaks – her only two attempts at trips beyond a mile. Their dam was a Cherry Hinton at two and is a sister to the miler Giant’s Causeway, who did win this race in 2000 but was best over a mile. The family of Gleneagles have generally been at their best at trips up to a mile.

By contrast Golden Horn could be running over his optimum trip. He got the mile and a half well enough at Epsom, but his defeat of The Grey Gatsby at Sandown was probably his best performance – it earned him a BHA rise of 4lb, from 126 to 130. There must be a doubt about his participation if John Gosden deems the ground to be genuinely soft, but in my view that is very unlikely.

If I were making a book on both Golden Horn and Gleneagles meeting then I would be a shade of odds against it happening.

Golden Horn has an unbeaten record to protect, while O’Brien has already withdrawn Gleneagles from one major race – the Sussex Stakes – on slightly tenuous grounds. Of the others Time Test is the most interesting. Roger Charlton’s son of Dubawi is rated on 116 – a stone behind Golden Horn – and this is a step up from Group 3 to Group 1 company. However he is highly progressive and those close to him say he works like a Group 1 horse. I must say that if he beats Golden Horn and Gleneagles then it will make a mockery of the former’s rating. However he could not be in better hands and he displayed a fine turn of foot to win at Royal Ascot – arguably as good a change of gear as the two principals have shown so far.

I suspect Free Eagle will not be running, as Paddy Power would not be offering a standout 20/1 if they thought he was. Many will take the view that The Grey Gatsby is value at 12/1, even though he is held by Golden Horn and Free Eagle. He does, though, need one of the top three in the market to run poorly or not turn up to allow him into the frame.

York is one of my favourite meetings of the year. I look forward to sharing my views with you in the Online Previews, which will cover each of the four days starting with my assessment of the first day on Tuesday evening.

Bye for now