It seems every summer Saturday brings another big-field heritage handicap to scratch your head over. Next up is the Old Newton Cup at Haydock and here are our three against the field.
Royal Ascot’s Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap has become something of a treasure trove for winners of the Old Newton in recent years, so it’s little surprise to see that this year’s victor Opinion has been installed as ante-post favourite ahead of the Haydock contest.
However, trainer Sir Michael Stoute has yet to confirm the horse will take part, preferring to assess the opposition and the going before giving a run the all-clear.
Four of the last six Old Newton Cup winners took in that Ascot race, yet with none of those winning at the Royal meeting; it may be worth scouring the also-rans for a likely Haydock scorer.
With few others along for the second leg, Highland Castle (12/1) could well improve on his showing in Berkshire, where he experienced trouble in running which saw robbed of his head of steam 2f out, just as his rivals got busy.
His previous outing saw him beat No Heretic – who himself had beaten Opinion into third the time before that – over 1m4f at Newmarket.
Having put in some of his better runs over 1m6f he’ll need a strong gallop, but given six of the last 10 winners of this test have either led or raced up with the pace it seems he could well get what he requires.
Luca Cumani has a compelling record in this heat, with three victors and three placed horses from eight runners in the last 10 years and his Franciscan (8/1) is trying to make amends for being one of those two that didn’t make the frame for him this term.
The soft ground in last year’s renewal wasn’t to his liking – four of his five career wins came on good -to-firm – but the course at Haydock is certainly one on which he performs if the underhoof conditions are fast enough. The 2012 Old Newton was his sole run of three at the track in which he failed to be first past the lollipop.
Owner Dr Marwan Koukash loves a winner in these big Saturday handicaps up north and his previous course and distance winner is just 2lbs above his last winning mark.
The third, final and most fancied member of our Old Newton triumvirate is Alan Bailey’s Strictly Silver (14/1), who looks to have been crying out for a test that can bring his staying power into the equation.
Despite boasting the pace to score three times at trips between 7f and an extended mile, he’s shown a lot of promise in two runner-up runs over 1m2f – the longest trip he’s yet tackled – both times outstaying an opponent to nick second in the shadow of the finishing post.
Being by Arc winner Dalakhani, bloodstock scholars would hardly be gobsmacked if he were indeed to improve for an extra furlong or two and his claiming jockey will reduce to his weight to a manageable 8st 9lb.
The pilot in question is one Robert Tart who also boasts a useful strike rate at Haydock this term, scoring aboard two of his six rides at the track.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.