The flat season continues at breakneck pace this weekend and our race of focus is the Class 2 Victoria Cup at Ascot. As with most of these big sprint handicaps, this has a devilish look for punters and at 8/1 the field we have any number of betting options. Only one horse in the last 13 years has won this seven furlong dash carrying more than 9st 3lbs, and once again it could well pay to look towards a lightly weighted improver lurking within the pack.
Lightly raced for William Haggas and certainly on the upgrade after winning cosily last time. My doubt with him is whether he deserves to be favourite for a race like this when he’s still relatively short on experience. He’s only competed in two big field handicaps and was pretty well beaten both times, so there has to be some doubt on his ability to handle the hustle and bustle. It would put me off backing him at the prices.
HOLD TIGHT (Best price 10-1)
One to keep on the right side of given his totally unexposed profile and only Godolphin will truly know what they have. Much like Predominance, there has to be a question mark surrounding his ability to handle this kind of contest (only his fourth start), but he has progressed nicely and is potentially still ahead of the handicapper. The horse he beat last time out, Boomerang Bob, is now rated 97 so there is definite room for movement in Hold Tight’s current rating.
OUTBACK TRAVELLER (Best price 11-1)
Has almost five lengths to find on Predominance on their last running, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He was given a typical hold up ride by Jamie Spencer at Haydock last time and got very unlucky in running and has been dropped two pounds as a result. Looking back to last summer, he finished only three lengths down on Markaz in a Group 3, so on that form he would have to go very close granted a more positive ride here.
FREE CODE (Best price 16-1)
Looks to have been laid out for the race. Made something of an eyecatching return at Newcastle last month when he was never really put in the race and was given a nice blow out before running on near the finish. He comes in here on a lovely mark of 92 and gets the assistance of another 3lbs from Rob Hornby. Shrewd handler David Barron looks to have played his cards nicely here and the horse ought to go close.
MULLIONHEIR (Best price 20-1)
Very dangerous contender for Jim Best. Won five times during a fruitful 2015 and makes his return here having been off the track since last August. It’s asking a lot to come and win this without a prep but he carries only 8st 10lbs and has to rate a very lively challenger at the prices for a stable that more than knows the time of day. If the horse is stripping fit, he should be written off at your peril.
SUPERSTA (Best price 33-1)
This horse has been a great servant to connections over the winter, racking up six wins and going close on a number of other occasions. He’s going to need to step up to win this, and he does look to have become something of an all weather specialist these days, but off a mark of 94 and in his current form, it would be foolish to completely write him off.
THE REST: As previously mentioned, it’s going to take the busting of a huge trend for a horse at the head of the weights to take this prize. It’s no surprise, therefore, that pretty much everything over the 9st mark boasts fanciful quotes.
HEAVEN’S GUEST for Richard Fahey is a solid, dependable sprint handicapper who will always run his race, while there could well be a race of this nature in Simon Crisford’s MUTAWATHEA. But one thing’s for sure, this will be among the most competitive races of the season and the market tells its own story.
OUTBACK TRAVELLER (0.5pts each way @ 11/1 with various firms)
FREE CODE (0.5pts each way @ 16/1 with Coral)