After the feast of racing last Saturday there is a lull in proceedings before the King George and Glorious Goodwood and then the York Ebor meeting towards the end of August. The Flat season has now reached the midpoint and the better horses are being prepared for the late summer festivals and Champions Day and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October. Summer jumping has its big day at Market Rasen on Saturday when Ebony Express and Alcala can win the feature hurdle race and chase.
It seems strange planning to have three major meetings on one Saturday and then no standout races seven days later. The Newmarket July meeting was moved to Thursday to Saturday to capture international viewing interest but the July Cup had to compete with Wimbledon, the Scottish Open, British Grand Prix and Tour de France. This Saturday’s fare will be overshadowed by the third round of the Open Championship and the last significant stage of the cycle race around France.
National Hunt racing is now just about a 12 month sport when in the past there was a break from June to August. Summer jumping attracts huge holiday crowds and there are now some decent prizes on offer. Market Rasen stages the Summer Handicap Hurdle and Summer Plate Chase and ITV cameras will be there to record both races for live coverage. Ebony Express and Alcala can be winning favourites for the punters and the double pays a very attractive 62/1 while the place element alone pays 13/2.
Both features races are competitive handicaps which bookmakers love. Place terms will be one quarter the odds for the first three or four places and its 6/1 the fields. Betting turnover in these two jumps contests could be bigger than the relatively ordinary highlights at Newbury and Newmarket. The King George is the mid-season all aged championship and one of the highlights of the Flat season and is closely followed by five days of top class racing at Goodwood. The York Ebor meeting features the richest Flat handicap in Europe and on ratings one of the best Flat races in the world.
Qatar Racing are the main backers of the Goodwood meeting and prize money has gone through the roof thanks to their backing. However, there is a potentially tricky situation as other Middle East countries are not talking to Qatar. It will be interesting to see the atmosphere and body language when a Qatari bigwig presents a prize to Godolphin, the racing organisation funded by the UAE who have fallen out with Qatar. Ribchester owned by Godolphin is the favourite for the Susses Stakes which is now a million pound race thanks to investment from Qatar Racing.
The standout heritage handicap is the Stewards Cup which retains its traditional name after being called something totally different when it was briefly sponsored by an online casino. At the time of writing no horse is quoted at single figure odds. Projection has the record to deliver for favourite. Fastnet Tempest has winning form in similar major handicaps and can make the payout places which could go to five horses with some bookmakers. There could be price boosts and Best Odds Guaranteed but the race is still a tough handicap for beating the bookies.
Even though the King George is a championship contest there are conditions that favour some horses. A three old filly carries one stone less than an older male horse and that is a huge concession at this level. Enable if running will have 14 pounds in hand over the favourite, Highland Reel, and that concession will make life difficult for last year’s winner. Only two horses have prevailed more than once so Highland Reel will have to be exceptional to achieve back-to-back wins.
Enable has won the English and Irish Oaks this season and is one of the best three-year-old fillies in Europe. Her rating suggests beating Highland Reel and the other older horses is feasible and the weight allowances could be key in determining the outcome of the race. You can boost your betting bank for the upcoming major Flat races and meetings by having a double on the two favourites in the summer jumps racing features. All roads then lead to Ascot and Goodwood.