Third Time Lucky is the 8/1 clear favourite in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, strongly fancied to gain his second consecutive victory in this Heritage handicap run over nine furlongs (4.10pm, Saturday live on Channel 4).
His task is made easier by the defection of Firmament but the last horse to achieve back-to-back wins was Prince de Galles in 1970.
Richard Fahey admitted that he had the race in mind for a while for this typical grey son of Clodovil after his win. He did not share his thoughts with the owners, the Musley Bank Partnership, who declared him a ‘genius’. Back then Third Time Lucky was a progressive three-year-old coming into the race after achieving his fourth win. Now a four-year-old, he has had three outings that have resulted in a 2lb drop in the handicap mark he gained after his Cambridgeshire victory.
Third Time Lucky was fancied on his debut at York but pulled hard and did not get home. Next time he finished last in the Betfred Mile at Goodwood in July. His run in the Clipper Logistics Stakes at York in August was more encouraging, he was beaten less than two lengths by Firmament into fifth.
Fahey is a force to be reckoned with in valuable handicaps but this has been a pretty disappointing season so far for Third Time Lucky. On the positive side he will be partnered by Fahey’s Ebor-winning apprentice, Adam McNamara whose claim takes 5lb off his back.
Brian Meehan’s Spark Plug (14/1) finished fourth at York, narrowly beating Third Time Lucky. He has never visited Newmarket or tried this distance but it ought to suit him. Spark Plug was second in a five runner listed race at Sandown over a furlong further in July, the best placing he had achieved since winning a handicap over a mile at Newbury in May last year. He beat Gm Hopkins a neck under Jimmy Fortune but suffered a heavy fall next time out in the final stages of the Royal Hunt Cup (won by Gm Hopkins) which has possibly left a mark. He has been taken down early on occasions since and now wears cheekpieces.
This five-year-old son of Dylan Thomas looks capable of performing off his mark of 104. He is usually held up and if Jimmy Fortune manages to look after him and gets the timing right he has realistic hopes of making the frame. However we will look elsewhere for this preview’s betting tips’ selection.
A horse with a more progressive profile is Bravo Zolo (14/1). This four-year-old son of Rip Van Winkle has not been seen since April when he was narrowly beaten by Charlie Appleby’s Secret Brief in the Lincoln at Doncaster on soft ground. He took the lead two furlongs out under Ryan Moore but was headed when it mattered. He was the only horse of the first seven finishers who had been ridden prominently. Bravo Zolo had also been drawn very low on the far side whilst the other horses in the first four had been drawn high and came from the stands’ side.
Bravo Zolo has four victories on the all-weather to his name, including one at Wolverhampton in February that confirms his aptitude for this trip. His trainer, Jeremy Noseda (pictured), has targeted this race and is convinced that good ground is essential for this gelding to give of his best.
Bravo Zolo’s mark has risen 2lb to 103 after the Lincoln. If Noseda is right this horse looks well treated and should encounter perfect conditions here. The yard is in good form and Frankie Dettori partners him for the first time – a flying dismount could well be on the cards.
Dettori’s boss, John Gosden has won this race three times and sends out the topweight, Gm Hopkins (25/1). This five-year-old son of Dubawi ran well to finish sixth here last year, beaten just over three lengths under Dettori. He won a listed race at Ascot on his seasonal debut in April over a mile on good to soft but was found wanting in Group company next time. He has gained place money in his last two starts but Dettori’s defection seems justified. Gm Hopkins looks unlikely to give his trainer his fourth win, even with the assistance of Ryan Moore.
Luca Cumani has a more interesting contender in Banksea (14/1), a son of Lawman. This three-year-old has been exceptionally busy for an inmate of Cumani’s yard. He has only finished out of the first two in a couple of his seven starts this season – he blew his chances by pulling hard in both. Banksea was runner-up, beaten three-quarters of a length, in his last two runs in handicaps over a mile after starting as the favourite in both.
Banksea’s only victory this time was over a mile and a quarter off a mark of 87 on quick ground at Pontefract in June under Andrea Atzeni. He was keen and ridden close to the pace but Jamie Spencer partners him for the first time suggesting that hold-up tactics are on the agenda.
Another horse with realistic claims is the five-year-old Examiner (16/1), who was only beaten a length into third here last year after being sent off at 50/1. He comes into this on the back of a win in a decent handicap at Epsom in June off a mark of 92. Trained by Stuart Williams, Examiner again demonstrated his aptitude for course and distance in his previous run, finishing runner-up beaten half a length in a similar Class 2 handicap under Oisin Murphy in April. Both those efforts were on good to soft.
Williams has put Examiner away for this race and reports that he is in good order at home. Murphy will be pleased with his central draw but the fast ground looks less than ideal.
Two horses who should enjoy conditions are Bronze Angel (25/1) and Celestial Path (25/1). Bronze Angel has already scored twice in this race and, now a seven-year-old, his age and his current mark make a third win look most unlikely. Marcus Tregoning acknowledges that Bronze Angel performs best in fast-run cavalry charges and is hoping for a decent effort under Louis Steward who won with him in 2014.
Sir Mark Prescott admits that Celestial Path has never galloped in quite the same way since he suffered a hairline fracture behind as a juvenile. Now a four-year-old this handsome son of Footstepsinthesand has been badly drawn in the past two runs and has a wide draw to overcome here. It would not be a shock to see him perform better than his price suggests, especially if the use of a tongue tie for the first time helps him.
Saeed bin Suroor’s Very Talented (16/1) is fancied by some to live up to his name. This three-year-old is having just his fifth start. He won his maiden at the third time of asking as a juvenile over a mile at Doncaster and has yet to score again. Very Talented last ran in early September, finishing third in a Class 2 handicap over a mile on fast ground at Ascot. He tried to take the race from the front under James Doyle but was slightly outpaced in the closing stages and was beaten a length and a half.
Very Talented starts off the same mark under Kevin Stott and should enjoy the extra furlong but the stable’s form is not very encouraging.
In contrast Ed Vaughan’s yard is thriving and he has booked the capable 3lb claimer, Josephine Gordon, to partner Interconnection (40/1). This five-year-old has done well in his two starts this season in Class 3 handicaps over a mile and a quarter. He was third last time out in August at Epsom and won his previous start on quick ground here. His mark has risen 6lb since and he has been drawn very wide but he will enjoy conditions and is not without hope of running into a place.
Our Cambridgeshire Preview’s Betting Tips’ Verdict
This is a complex puzzle to solve and the 8/1 favourite, Third Time Lucky, does not quite fit the ‘progressive’ bill of a typical Cambridgeshire winner but his trainer’s record in big handicaps has to be respected. Examiner (16/1) looks to have a very decent chance but the ground may have gone against him.
Our preview’s Cambridgeshire betting tip has to be Jeremy Noseda’s BRAVO ZOLO who is improving and has gained his current mark in unfavourable circumstances. He has been saved for this race and has the benefit of the in-form Frankie Dettori’s guidance for the first time. Bravo Zolo is best backed each-way at the biggest current odds of 14/1 with sponsors Betfred who are offering ¼ the odds on the first five places.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.