An EBF Novice Stakes over 5f on soft going. A tantalising race. Nine two-year-olds take part: four with race experience and five debutantes. Plenty of depth in this race and Sutter County [pictured] will be the subject of most racegoers thoughts.
Mark Johnston sent out three talented juveniles to win the first races last season and like a creature of habit he done the same this time round with imperious style. Finding winners for trainers and gamblers alike is all about intention. I have little doubt this strapping son of Invincible Spirit had live Royal Ascot hopes when heading to Wolverhampton to make his debut. The prize money indicated that was a race of merit and the horses which has come from that contest have proven that point. Stringybark Creek, Decadent Times, Merry Banter, Cullingworth & Red Mohican have either won, placed or shown promise. That race will yield more winners.
They were fair horses - Sutter County was impressive. I rarely get excited about a two-year-old winning on debut but there was something about this February colt which sparkled.
Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer, said: "Sutter County was very good first time out. It is good to see that the second horse he beat that day (Stringybark Creek) has won since.
"There is a novice race at the Craven meeting and I think he is likely to go there so that's the aim at the moment."
He said: "There is a conditions race at Ascot and things like the Lily Agnes at Chester but we've not made any plans with these fillies yet. "With the novice programme how it is we are not in a huge rush with them as they are fillies, we want to look forward to for the whole season. We will take our time with them."
Sutter County has to carry a 6lb penalty and rain softened ground will be an unknown but this colt will start odds on and if he runs his race will take some beating.
Other noted form horses include Tomily & Makman, who both showed promise when making their debut at Kempton when finishing second and third, respectively.
Tomily, trained by Richard Hannon, was heavily backed and started favourite but backers where chewing their nails and betting slips because this bonny colt, a son of Canford Cliffs, had no luck in running and ran very wide on the final bend which made life difficult. Des Anderson's home bred, related to Cake, made the best of a bad job and rallied well to a point punters considered they had a last-ditch chance for victory. This January foal had the ability to win - he simply ran out of time to catch the more experienced Stringybark Creek. With that initial experience, and running over this straight course, he should be respected and there could be marked improvement.
Makman is trained by Ed Dunlop in the silks of Hamdan Al Maktoum. It's quite unusual for this handler to have an early two-year-old, which is a significant pointer.
This son of Kodiac cost 130,000g at the yearling sales. He ran a respectable race on debut, perhaps looking a touch pressed but battling on, making headway towards the finish but headed by Tomily. Makman was well backed that day and if fancied in the betting may improve and could appreciate a slightly stiffer test of stamina, which could well be the case come race time.
I would imagine the fact that Tomily has beaten this colt and looking unlucky not to win on debut that Makman will be weak in the market. This contrast between two horses often leads to much bigger odds and featured in an article I wrote for Gambler's Psychology Kit: A Contrasting Point on Gambling Psychology. Whether Makman has the ability to beat the likes of Sutter County is one thing but I can safely guarantee that his price will be markedly bigger than Tomily because of this psychological factor. (An example of this can be seen with the recent running of Culingworth who was previously beaten by Merry Banter). If Ed Dunlop's charge was priced 13/2 & less it would be significant and hold strong each way claims.
Considering Sutter County beat Stringybark Creek by a ''country mile.''
The form line between Mick Channon's juvenile suggests Tomily & Makman have a good few lengths to find with Sutter County. In their defence, both have reasons to improve and appreciate a hefty weight advantage.
Tom Dascombe must have been pretty peeved by the narrow loss of Full Intention at Winsdor on Monday. He and Jester Spirit have something in common - both were earmarked to run in the Brocklesby Stakes. Full Intention was withdrawn after running lose. This Irish bred son of Dragon Pulse is out of a poor-winning mare. A relatively cheap yearling purchase at £13,000 this bay colt is unfancied in the betting. Owners, The Roaring Twenties, have sent out the majority of juveniles for Dascombe this year and the likes of Decadent Times will be winning soon. The betting is the best guide for this March foal, and if starting a big price is a watching brief.
*Charlie Chaplin has intended to run at Windsor on Monday but withdrawn. If Paul Eddery's colt had concerns about the testing ground then you have to question his likelihood to run. Time will tell. It is worth noting this colt was pretty fancied in the betting that day to a point of being significant. He is bound to start a big price with such competition but he may be backed if pushed to extremes on the exchanges. Something tells me this colt will be winning this season and I would take note second start.
Kevin Ryan is a talented trainer of two-year-olds. Dream Of Dreams is unsurprisingly a son of Dream Ahead out of an unraced mare. Although a home bred he was sent to the sales and bought in for 37,000gns. A fair percentage of Ryan's debutantes are priced 13/2 & less on debut although that is very unlikely to be the case today. I'd take a watching brief unless seriously backed.
Copper Knight hasn't traveled far to start his career for Newmarket-based handler Hugo Palmer. I rate this trainer who literally performed a miracle with the highly-strung Gifted Master last season. Copper Knight is a son of Sir Prancealot out of a debut-winning mare. He was purchased for £30,000 by his present owners Anglian Bloodstock. Palmer can ready a two-year-old to win on debut and it is interesting this bay colt starts here. It is a tall order for any horse making its racecourse bow to beat proven horses and I would take a watching brief.
Vinnievanbaileys runs in the familiar silks of Bailey's Horse Feed. Chris Dwyer is a canny trainer but a mountain to climb.
Heavenly Cry showed little in the Brocklesby Stakes.
Conclusion: A race to savour in many ways with the potential of Sutter County to show his talent. His debut win suggested a horse that is top-notch. Every race is a potential stumbling block and he has to defy a penalty and soft ground. At prohibitive odds (for most punters) I will be watching as a purist rather than betting on a horse which looks to be heading to the Coventry Stakes Group 2. Tomily and Makman deserve respect as both have improvement to come, especially the former trained by Hannon. There may be plenty of people willing to back this colt each way and fancy they will not be losing on the day. Makman could well start at value odds. However, I would be more interested if this colt is quite strong in the market. If so, I'd expect him to hit the frame. The debutantes need to be special to win this and I would watch and learn for the future.
NR - Charlie Chaplin