Talking Horses: Best bets for day one of Newmarket’s Craven meeting


Today’s best bets, by Chris Cook

We’ve had two Grand Nationals in the space of nine days and there’s another one to come this weekend but, with a clashing of gears and a squealing of tyres, horse racing will effect a sudden u-turn today and head to Newmarket in search of precocious speed. It’s day one of the Craven meeting, a time to examine juvenile pedigrees while sipping a glass of Pimm’s and murmuring: “I say, what a lovely page…”

Such a reaction would certainly be justified for anyone looking at today’s first race, the Wood Ditton, which is all “bred in the purple” this and “well related” that. I was slightly brought down to earth by a thread in the Betfair chatroom wherein someone claimed the race, for debutant three-year-olds, has a fine record of producing juvenile hurdlers.

That being said, Harbinger and Medicean were both beaten in Wood Dittons and so, signficantly, was Mukhadram. The significance lies in the fact that he represented the same owner/trainer combination that may strike today with the favourite, Elyaasaat (1.50).

By Frankel out of the Breeders’ Cup winner Lahudood, he ought to be good, holds all the right entries and comes from a yard, that of William Haggas, that is flying along in the early weeks of the season. Haggas is 12/23 with his three-year-olds so far this year and Elyaasaat can be another winner at odds of around 15-8. Let’s hope that, unlike Mukhadram, he doesn’t have to wait for the subsequent disqualification of the first horse past the post.

Via Egnatia (2.55) and Top Mission (4.35) both appeal to me as solid, sensible plays, albeit at odds of 6-4 or so. Slightly better priced at 4-1 is Next Stage (3.30) in the mile handicap, a Dubawi half-brother to the Group One winner Speedy Boarding.

This chestnut began 2016 with an excellent second place in a Doncaster handicap behind a horse who won the Britannia next time. The fourth won next time. The third won two starts later. The form could hardly have worked out better, but not for Next Stage, who flopped on his only subsequent run, at Salisbury a fortnight later. Perhaps he hated the soft that day. Perhaps he had some of the virus that played hell with Saeed bin Suroor’s string last summer.

Anyway, he’s back now and, with Bin Suroor cleaning up, I think he might be about to show us how well treated he is, despite an 8lb rise for that Doncaster second. He’s bred to be still making plenty of improvement.

Finally, Coiste Bodhar (4.55) is an interesting 20-1 shot at Southwell. Three times a winner at this track, he has been disappointing lately but under a jockey whose very presence in the saddle suggested little was expected, whereas he is now reunited with a rider who has won twice on him.

The cheekpieces are also refitted for the first time in a year. He gets to run from his last winning mark, having been dropped 10lb in four starts.

Tuesday racing tips

Elyaasaat 2.20 Devil’s Cowboy 2.55 Via Egnatia (nb) 3.30 Next Stage (nap) 4.05 Khalidi 4.35 Top Mission 5.05 Seeking Magic

Focaccia 2.30 Talent To Amuse 3.05 Mr Mountain 3.40 Gibbes Bay 4.15 Caulfields Venture 4.45 Stowaway Magic 5.20 Ceasar Milan

Bushel 2.45 Tatting 3.20 Passcode 3.55 Robero 4.25 Midlight 4.55 Coiste Bodhar 5.25 Sugarloaf Mountain

Djarkalin 5.30 Helium 6.00 Jester Jet 6.30 Alcala 7.00 I See You Well 7.30 Cobra De Mai 8.00 Dans Le Vent

Rouge Devils 5.40 San Satiro 6.10 Only Gorgeous 6.40 Seven Kingdoms 7.10 Ashoka 7.40 Buck’s Lad