Thursday 3 April 2014

2:20 Leicester (4th April) KNIGHTON MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 5) (2yo)

A Maiden Stakes over 5f 2y on good to soft ground. Twelve two-year-olds take part: eight colts, one gelding and three fillies from a selection of leading juvenile trainers. All horses are making their debut bar Flyball who finished an admirable third in the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes. 

Experience is a huge positive at this time of year. Flyball, trained by Richard Hannon, is an ideal candidate to prove the benefit of a first start. This March foal, owned by Middleham Park Racing, was a cheap yearling purchase by Ross Doyle Bloodstock for £9,000 out of a limited, sprinting mare, trained by the late Terry Mills. This bay colt may have been a little weak in the betting on debut. However, he showed ample promise to finish third behind Cock Of The North. The Brocklesby is a fair measure of ability and he should improve for that initial start. Flyball knew his job at Doncaster: quick from the stalls, in contention, if not slightly outpaced mid race, before running on at the finish. He doesn't look the to have ample pace but against this field of debutantes should lead or just sit off the pace. It is a positive he runs to the line. Many of the newcomers are likely to be tiring at the finish or given a tender introduction. It is always a strength to finish a race. The only negative is a wide draw. Stall one leaves a horse prone to run into space and although experience will lessen this factor it is something to consider. I would expect Levey [jockey] to make a bold show and the draw shouldn't be too much of a negative. This colt may have been a cheap buy but he is a fair-looking juvenile, quite tall and athletic. An honest type who will run his race. It will take a fair juvenile to beat him on debut. It must be noted that the form of the Brocklesby has yet to be tested - so caution is always the best policy. However, if each way prices allow - a fair bet.

Richard Fahey is a class act when it comes to training two-year-olds. He is one of few trainers who features a similar win rate with horses on their first and second start. Very few handlers come close to such exploits - the mark of horses primed to go well on their racecourse bow. Burtonwood catches the eye. This son of Acclamation is out of a poor-winning mare but certainly caught the attention of many at the sales. This January foal must be a good-looking colt because he was sold for 150,000gns at the yearling sales in joint ownership of David Armstrong & Cheveley Park Stud. With such a price tag, high-profile trainer & auspicious owners this must be a talking horse. The stable can deliver impressive debutante winners and one to respect. A relatively wide draw is not ideal but an intriguing horses. 

Brazen Spirit comes here after being balloted out of the Brocklesby, which is a strange occurrence. This grey son of first season sire Zebedee was purchased by the trainer for £20,000 at the yearling sales. Clive Cox is a talented handler and he can prime a horse to go well on debut. Certainly a high rail draw could be an advantage if fast from the stalls. The betting will be the best guide to this February foal's chances. If priced 13/2 & less he has sound win and place claims. 

Another trainer associated with class juveniles is Kevin Ryan. Fast Act is a chestnut colt by first season sire Fast Company. He cost £38,000 at the yearling sales and related to a good few winners. This horse runs in the familiar silks of Hambleton Racing Ltd. He is one of the youngest in the field, not quite two (16th April). Just under half of all Ryan's juveniles start 13/2 & less o their debut run. The majority of their winners are priced 7/1 & less but they do have a few beyond this guide. The stable feature a respectable win rate on debut although they can be rather hit and miss. 

London Life was entered to run at Lingfield but a non runner. This daughter of Approve cost 38,000euros at the yearling sales and an early foal. It is slightly concerning that she looked to be second string on her intended start although Kingscote takes the ride today. The betting is the best guide and if priced 7/1 & less would have fair win and place claims. I wouldn't back this horse early on the exchanges, as if needing the run she will most likely drift in the betting.

David Evans has the approach of throwing a lot of two-year-old at this first part of the season with the aim of taking advantage of limited races, fit horses and a talent or two. Cheerio Sweetie made an impressive debut to win at Lingfield and fields four horses of an intended five runners. Verchild Lad, Josie Joe, Hard To Find & Come Uppence are all cheap buys. The betting is the best guide and if priced 13/2 & less it would be a sign of confidence. A watching brief if weak in the market.

Chester Deal is related to Marilyn Marquessa who showed some pace at two but a limited horse. Jo Hughes' stable often like to gamble and a market move would be a sign of interest. However, this colt is best watched.

Harry Hurricane makes his debut for George Baker. This son of Kodiac is out of a winning mare and cost £38,000 at the yearling sales, increasing his price from foal. This bay colt isn't two until 24th April. The stable's juveniles usually benefit for the run unless they are substantially backed. I'd take a watching brief unless the floodgates open, as most of their youngsters are primed for their second start.

Bill Turner is another trainer who isn't shy when it comes to racing his two-year-old horses and Lady Bling didn't look to go through the sales ring. This daughter of Showcasing is not quite two and races in the familiar black and yellow silks of Mrs M Teversham. The stable do not feature as good a strike rate on debut as the media proclaims and unless substantially backed best watched.

Conclusion: An intriguing race. The betting will be a good guide to the leading prospects. Unless there is a big gamble this looks to be out of Flyball, Burtonwood, Brazen Spirit & Fast Act. Flyball isn't best drawn but he is likely to set a stern test for the debutantes, who will need to be primed to challenge this juvenile. The Brocklesby form is still unproven but it is generally a fair guide to ability. Hannon's colt looks straight forward and will be primed to win. He is likely to finish with zeal and that could make life difficult for the debutantes who will be given a considerate introduction to racing. If each way prices are availble it would be a disappointment if Flyabll couldn't make the frame. Burtonwood cost a lot of money at the sales and hails from influential connections who send out debut winners. It will be interesting to see how this colt fares in the betting. If a class act, he could take all the beating but any signs of inexperience would favour the horse with experience. Brazen Spirit would have fair win and place claims if prices 13/2 & less. London Life follows a similar guide. It is a concern that this filly was viewed as second string when entered to run at Lingfield. If weak in the betting that would be a negative. Fast Act should be respected and has a fighting chance if fancied in the betting. The rest would need to be substantially backed to bring any confidence. Flyball would have respectable claims if available at each way prices. 

HCE has a new breeding expert - Massimo Nutini. 

He says: This time the pure sprinter is LADY BLING Best quality horses are CHESTER DEAL and FAST ACT; more correlated horse to the distance, continues to be BRAZEN SPIRIT.
My choice should go on BRAZEN SPIRIT