Merry me still on the dark side

October 17th, 2015 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I am generally happy to let the Flat racing season go right through to the end before concentrating on National Hunt and I suppose I’m one of those who are happy to regard the former Mackeson meeting, now the Paddy Power, as the true starting point. Frankly, I am prepared this year to ‘move over’ a little earlier because things have not gone all that well over the past few weeks. For sure, concentrating on better quality events at the weekend has paid more dividends than following run-of-the mill handicappers in midweek. Too many  –  Rocket Rob, Elusivity, Ladweb  –  have run well without looking like winning. Of these, I still think Rocket Rob may turn up at the bitter end.

Champions Day seems to me to take place a little too late and on ground which, if not truly soft, is likely to be tacky or holding. My main thoughts about this year’s fixture concern horses which have probably done enough for the season and those which remain on the ‘dark side and are capable of causing an upset.

Some of the runners in the Long Distance Cup surely need a rest and the likes of Clondaw Warrior, Wicklow Brave and Suegioo have been on the go for many months. Pallasatorwill be fresh enough but few will take his attitude for granted. At Doncaster he played up beforehand but settled well enough in the race and had the ideal target to aim at in his stable-companion William Of Orange. He has something to find with Agent Murphy on Newbury running and this is not a race to approach with any confidence.

For different reasons you would also be careful with Covert Love in the Fillies and Mares because she had a very hard race indeed in the Prix de l’Opera. Simple Verse is the form filly on her controversial victory in the St Leger but the quietly progressive one is JOURNEY, who has been winning with remarkable ease.

The dark one in the Sprint is The Tin Man, whose connections have paid the supplementary fee following a very easy victory here last time. He has something to find with proven Group 1 horses but they are mot bound to reproduce their best form deep into October. I would prefer to be a bookmaker here and I recommend extreme caution where Muhaarar and Twilight Son are concerned. Eastern Impact, on the other hand, strikes me as a durable type who will be there or thereabouts.

A question mark hangs over Gleneagles before the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which should go to SOLOW. He has been very shrewdly placed by Freddie Head and will be fresh enough. The ‘saver’ bet is possibly Elm Park, who was all wrong in the spring but won well enough last time and may recapture the form which saw him go into winter quarters as a leading fancy for the Classics a year ago.

Stable-companion MERRY ME is quite interesting, as well. Many of the usual suspects line up in the closing Balmoral Handicap and I’d have been with Gabriel’sLad over seven furlongs but he is a specialist at that trip and a mile will test him. Andrew Balding felt strongly enough about Merry Me to send him to Baden-Baden to take on Vadamos and that horse takes his chance in the Champion Stakes, a nightmare of a race in which the only thing to attract me would be the likely starting price of the winner. I’d be very interested in 12/1 or better.

In conclusion, Solow is the safest bet on a very tricky card and Merry Me is the each-way value late in the day.