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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday's Irish Independent article

I ONCE heard it said that statistics should be used in the same way as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, rather than illumination. Stats and trends can be useful if you want to draw up a profile of what type of animal is likely to win a certain race but you still have to do your homework on each individual horse and there are few, if any, shortcuts in this game. Having said all that, I was struck by one statistic I read this week while researching the November Handicap (2.35 Doncaster) and that is how poorly favourites have performed in the last two decades. The last time a jolly won, Coolio was number one in the Irish charts with ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ (1995) and very few fancied horses have even made the frame since. It’s worth noting too that horses that haven’t raced in the previous two months have a woeful record so race fitness, it seems, is crucial. Likely favourite First Mohican is race fit once again, winning both starts this year and the four-year-old may well be a pound or two ahead of the handicapper. But at 7/2, you’d have to say he’s a little short in the market in what is likely to be his toughest assignment yet. In 2010, Sir Henry Cecil said he could be a Derby horse after his debut win at Yarmouth but unfortunately, he fractured his knee soon afterwards so we didn't get to see him race again until last month. I don’t dismiss him lightly though and his name is in the notebook as one to back at a later date, presuming he stays in training. Instead, a chance is taken each-way on the Kevin Ryan trained Clayton (8/1), with Jimmy Quinn booked to ride. The three-year-old barely broke a sweat when comfortably winning his debut maiden at Southwell back in March and he's progressed steadily in his four races since. His sixth place of 12 in a handicap at Newmarket last time didn't do him justice as he was coming back after a four month break and needed to shake off the cobwebs - but he'll be fit today can give the favourite a run for his money. Of course, today’s meeting at Doncaster brings down the curtain on the 2012 flat season, a year that will be remembered for Frankel, arguably the greatest ever. It was a somewhat sombre day at Warren Place on Thursday as the colt left the yard to take up stud duties at the nearby Banstead Manor . But along with sadness, there was a huge sense of pride as Cecil said goodbye to a horse that has given everyone so much joy: “I want to thank Frankel for so much - for being such a very special part of my training career. Thank you, Frankel”. Already, names like Midday and the Australian superstar Black Caviar are being mentioned as potential partners and while it could be a long time before we see one as good as Frankel grace a racecourse, his story is not over yet.

It's been a few weeks since I landed a nice double-priced winner but I'm hoping Highland Colori can change my fortunes at 14/1 in the Betfred 'The Bonus King' Handicap at Doncaster (3.45). He hit 1/4 in-running before being touched off by Mass Rally in the Ayr Silver Cup in September and wasn't disgraced when finishing seventh of 20 runners in a competitive handicap at Ascot on Champions Day. The assessor hasn't been too harsh and with four places up for grabs, it would be a surprise to see connections go home empty-handed.

Soccer: After the dizzying highs of beating one of the world’s greatest teams on Wednesday, Celtic are back to the bread and butter games of the SPL , hosting St Johnstone tomorrow. While top teams often see a dip in form following a big match, I reckon the Hoops will have their measure considering the Perth based outfit have failed to score in seven of the last nine meetings of the pair. Back the Bhoys at 5/6 to keep a clean sheet tomorrow afternoon.
Horseracing: Sajjhaa can take the Betfred E.B.F. Gillies Fillies' Stakes on behalf of Saeed bin Suroor at Doncaster (2.00). The five-year-old found three too good last time in the Premio Lydia Tesio Longines in Rome but it was a respectable performance in group one company. Previously, she put in a career best when second to Izzi Top in the group two Middleton Stakes at York and the drop down to listed company today should see her outclass her rivals, priced around 15/8.

2.00 Doncaster: Sajjhaa
2.35 Doncaster: Clayton (e/w)
2.50 Wincanton: Prospect Wells
3.45 Doncaster: Highland Colori (e/w)

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