JOHN SMITHS CUP PREVIEW
A competitive handicap run over the 1m2f trip at York racecourse and it’s formerly named the Magnet Cup. This race can be a tricky one to solve due to the draw and horses who are coming here on the back of a good run. There is a lot of value on offer for this race and I will go into detail on the favourite and my personal opinion on some leading contenders for this year’s running.
SIXTIES GROOVE heads the market here and he’s a pretty consistent handicapper for a four-year-old. His mark has gone from 63 all the way up to 98 in the space of twelve months, which has included finishing an eye-catching fourth of 16 runners in the Rowley Cup over 1m4f at Newmarket before winning the Middle distance Handicap at Kempton over 1m3f. He finished a respectable seventh in the Investec mile at Epsom over 1m but found the trip on the short side and was never able to land a blow. I did like the way he shaped last time over 1m3f at Royal Ascot in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes when fifth of 19 runners and his mark remains unchanged today. But, he’s only around 13/2 in the market for today’s race and he steps back down in trip, which I think is a massive negative because he looks as though he needs a lot further. His odds look a little skinny for a race of this nature and there is better value elsewhere.
VICTORY BOND has a touch of class and connections must think an awful lot of him to supplement him for this competitive race. He did show some quality form last season and finished a creditable sixth in last year’s Group 2 Dante stakes on only his third ever start. He disappointed in a Group 3 in France but bounced back to best this season when a very good third of 17 runners in the Hambleton Handicap at this venue over 1m. He would needed the run but he stayed on strongly all the way to the line to only be beaten around two lengths. VICTORY BOND has only been raised 2lbs and he looks sure to improve on his seasonal debut and make a big impact.
UAE PRINCE has long been held in high regard by ROGER VARIAN and he won easily over 1m3f on his second start before finishing a luckless sixth over 1m4f next time in a competitive handicap as he suffered major interference before coming home strongly. UAE PRINCE won on his seasonal debut over 1m1f at Ripon in a class 3 before only finishing fifth of 9 runners at Ascot last time in a Listed race. However, he’s much better than that performance and can be forgiven for that occasion. Connections must think he can go well in this race and stable jockey Andrea Atzeni stays in the saddle. He should go very well if learning to settle a bit better.
MAJEED is an in-out character but he bounced back to form last time when a fine second at Royal Ascot in the Wolferton Handicap. This horse needs plenty of luck in-running and needs to be produced very late in his races. He’s relatively well handicapped and Fergus Sweeney is an eye-catching booking. At his best, this horse would have a serious chance of backing up that last effort, but I would prefer to see his odds much bigger than the current 12/1 mark for a horse who has been inconsistent this year. However, he could still go very well in a race of this nature as he’s a former Listed/group placed horse at his best.
DRAGON MALL really interests me here, he’s also trainer by David Simcock as the above horse is too. He’s posted some solid efforts since winning his maiden at Newmarket, including when a fine fourth behind THIKRIYAAT in a Group 3 twelve months ago. DRAGON MALL was slow away and lost ground before making good headway but suffered trouble in running at a crucial stage before staying on strongly to only be beaten around one length. That form has worked out well and he comes into today’s contest on the back of two eye-catching displays recently. He finished a tidy third at Nottingham following a break before running a remarkable race to finish ninth of 16 runners in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot. DRAGON MALL lost a huge amount of ground having walked out of the stalls and he must have been at least 30 lengths behind the leaders at that stage and didn’t look as though he was going anywhere 3f out. However, he picked up in determine fashion to reel in half of the field to be beaten just over three lengths. It was a terrific run considering what happened to him at the start and granted an even break, he surely would have gone close to winning the race. DRAGON MALL has been left on the same mark 101 and if he breaks away cleanly, then he is more than capable of going close. I just think he’s overpriced and is clearly a very talented horse.
I could arguably make a case for most of the field, who have good enough form to make and impact in this deep handicap. However, two horses stand out for me for betting purposes. Firstly, VICTORY BOND who looks well handicapped off a mark 102 on just his second start in handicap company and seems the type to have improved this season following a pleasing seasonal debut over the 1m trip here last time when third of 17 runners and can only improve for the extra two furlongs today. Connections must think he’s a decent horse and he ran well in last year’s Group 2 Dante stakes so he has a lot of class about him. He should go well today at fair enough odds 8/1 at the time of writing. My other selection has to be DRAGON MALL at 25/1, who I think is overpriced and has put in two eye-catching efforts recently. He was the horse to take out of the Wolferton Handicap having missed the break and gave away at least 30 lengths at the start. However, he finished the race so strongly to only be beaten around three lengths and if breaking away cleaner today, there is no reason why he can’t go close to winning this race. He’s got huge value and is a horse with a lot of talent. If he broke away better last time he could have gone close to winning and definitely wouldn’t be the price he is now.