The Cambridgeshire at Newmarket (Saturday, 3.50pm) is always a notoriously tricky 35-runner handicap for punters and this looks to be a particularly challenging renewal.
Both favourites and outsiders have prevailed in the past but favourites have a 25% strike rate over the past 20 years. Brian Ellison’s Top Notch Tonto (14/1) is towards the head of the market after he posted an impressive, unexpected win in the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock on September 7. He defied his starting price of 22/1 to give his trainer his first victory in a Group race. He beat Karl Burke’s Hay Dude by two and a quarter lengths on going described as good to soft.
This progressive three-year-old will carry a 5lb penalty as a result, but runs off a mark of just 99. That’s 13lbs lower than his new official rating of 112. It was his second win this season. He prevailed in a mile handicap at Newmarket on good to firm ground at the end of July, beating Ralph Beckett’s Royal Prize by a nose. In his next run over course and distance he was beaten a short head by John Gosden’s Breden on 10 August.
This son of Thousand Words can perform on a variety of surfaces, though Ellison suggests he is at his most effective with cut in the ground. Stamina is unlikely to be an issue as he came third over a mile and two furlongs at York in June. He has to be a serious contender, even without any further rain at Newmarket.
Three year olds have a very respectable 30% strike rate in the Cambridgeshire over the past 20 years. Only four year olds have fared better, accounting for 40% of the winners.
Hugo Palmer’s four-year-old Ascription is currently the joint favourite at 14/1 but has to be treated with caution. He is the ideal age but is unlikely to line up on the day if there is insufficient give in the ground.
Ascription also comes into the race on the back of a win. His was on good to soft in a handicap over a mile at Doncaster on 14 September. He started as the favourite and beat Luca Cumani’s Gabrial The Great by five lengths.
In his previous start in a handicap at Haydock on 10 August he was a beaten favourite – on good to firm. William Haggas’ Graphic beat him by two lengths when carrying nearly a stone less than him. Ascription has never been asked to go further than a mile but, as a son of Dansili out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, his breeding suggests he will not be inconvenienced by an extra furlong.
He may once again face Graphic, also available at 14/1. This four-year-old son of Excellent Art scored on his most recent start in the London Mile Handicap at Kempton on the all-weather. He beat Richard Hannon’s Mister Music by a length and a quarter. The manner of his victory suggested that an extra furlong could suit him but he has been raised 4lb since that win. There has to be a question mark over whether he can perform off this mark when he is also carrying a penalty. Frankie Dettori has been booked for the ride.
Haggas also sends out the equally fancied Queensberry Rules (14/1). This three-year-old son of Teofilo won his first two starts in April. Both his maiden on the all-weather at Kempton and the conditions stakes at Sandown were over a mile. He subsequently faded in the final stages in a mile and two furlong conditions stakes at Doncaster in June, coming last in a three runner affair.
He was dropped back to seven furlongs in a heritage handicap at Ascot on 27 July. He started as the favourite but was outpaced and finished 22nd of 29. Most recently he was tried over a mile in a decent handicap at York on 22 August. Again he was a beaten favourite, finishing a respectable sixth in a blanket finish where he stayed on well. This race could be the perfect distance for him. He will have the expert assistance of Ryan Moore.
Haggas also saddles Arsaadi (33/1) and Danchai (25/1). Blinkers are being tried for the first time on Danchai. He has struggled to be competitive since his rating was raised after his victory in the one mile two furlong Heritage Handicap at York on 13 July. He beat his stablemate, Stensive by a neck on good to firm ground.
He subsequently finished with only one horse behind him in a 14 runner handicap at Haydock on August 10 and finished midfield in his most recent start at Sandown on August 31. Both races were also a mile and two furlongs. The use of blinkers suggests that there could be more to come from this four-year-old son of Authorized. He has come second in both his runs at Newmarket. In May he was only beaten three quarters of a length by Peter Charalambous’ filly, Boonga Roogeta in a handicap. He could provide an interesting each-way bet for headgear fans.
Last year’s Cambridgeshire winner, Bronze Angel (20/1), lines up to defend his title. He has been trained with this race in mind by Marcus Tregoning. The trainer also sent out the third placed Boom Or Bust in 2012 but this four-year-old son of Dark Angel is up against it in more ways than one.
No horse has achieved back-to-back wins since Prince De Galles in 1970. Bronze Angel has also not run since he came fifth in a Group 3 at Newmarket in October last year. He reportedly suffered a setback this season which has kept him off the racecourse. Tregoning claims he has been able to get plenty of work into him and is hoping that he will run well. With an additional 6lb to shoulder this year, it is difficult to see him making the frame.
The majority of winners (70%) over the past 20 years have carried less than nine stone. You have to look further back to find a winner over the age of six. The last one was Jeremy Glover’s seven-year-old Rambo’s Hall, who was winning it for the second time, in 1992.
John Gosden has a good Cambridgeshire record, winning it three times and has a chance of equalling the now-retired Glover’s improbable haul of four Cambridgeshires. Gosden saddles the relatively unexposed three-year-old son of Speightstown, Seek Again (22/1). This will be his sixth start but his third visit to Newmarket. He won his maiden last season there and a handicap in mid August, both over seven furlongs. He has since had two outings on the all-weather at Kempton over a mile, most recently coming three lengths fourth to Graphic in the London Mile Handicap when carrying three pounds more than him. They meet again on more favourable terms on Saturday giving Seek Again a live chance if he can cope with the extra furlong.
Cambridgeshire Tips Advice
As ever, you can make a case for plenty of horses but there is one that is potentially a blot on the handicap and comes from one of the shrewdest yards in the business.
In addition TOP NOTCH TONTO is statistically a good age for this race and he is improving leaps and bounds. Like 70% of recent winners he will be carrying less than nine stone. Whatever the ground conditions on the day, our betting tip has a touch of much-needed class and provides decent value at best odds of 14/1 with Coral each-way.
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.